Joe had worked for the federal government for half a century, but had never been within 50 yards of the Oval Office. He walked in. He saw Clark, Vice President Bush, the senior aides, and the president of the United States. He was in awe, overcome. Suddenly, this tough six-foot-four man began weeping: He had come so far since Jim Crow and the Great Depression. He was choked up.
No one in the room was prepared for that reaction. They were dead silent, uncomfortable, unable to respond — except for Ronald Reagan. The president rose, walked over to the driver, extended his hand, breathed in, and said matter-of-factly, “Mr. Bullock, I understand you have a belt to show me?”
It was an “everyman” touch. And it put old Joe immediately at ease. Business-like, Joe showed the belt, and then he and Reagan began swapping stories, chatting away like old friends.
“The rest of us just faded away,” said Bill Clark, “as the two got along famously.” President and driver, remembering the old days.