DNC’s oldest delegate: Once a Democrat, always a Democrat

dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 4, 2012 

Elzena Johnson of Terry, MIssissippi is officially the DNCÕs oldest delegate at 97 (she turns 98 on Sept. 25). After arriving Monday, accompanied by daughter Carolyn Clements, the media immediately began requesting interviews. David Permutt - dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.com

Elzena Johnson of Terry, Miss., is officially the DNC’s oldest delegate at 97 (she turns 98 on Sept. 25).

After she arrived Monday with daughter Carolyn Clements, the media immediately began requesting interviews – including Al Jazeera, the independent Qatar-owned television network that became well-known to Americans during its early coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“I love talking to people, so that’s OK with me,” said Johnson, a town alderman first elected when she was 86. Until last year, she swam competitively in the state Senior Olympics. “I talk to anybody – and I’m honest with them.”

Born in 1914, she remembers her parents riding off in a mule-drawn buggy to vote. “Daddy’d give Mama $4 to put up the poll tax,” she said. “Daddy was a farmer and money was hard to come by. But they didn’t let that keep them from voting – always for a Democrat.”

The celebrity Tennessean

Actress and DNC delegate Ashley Judd had a confession for her fellow Tennessee delegates during breakfast Tuesday.

“I do root for the Tennessee Volunteers and the Vanderbilt Commodores – except when they’re playing Kentucky,” said Judd, a proud University of Kentucky graduate and fan who lives near Nashville. That drew laughs from the Tennessee delegates, proud that Judd is among them.

They said the TV and film star is dedicated to the delegation. She’s staying at the same hotel and will join the delegation on the convention floor.

“She’s a grassroots type of person. She has a connection with the average person,” said Van Turner of Memphis, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party. “She’s a wonderful person to have in our delegation.”

‘Bill’s still one of us’

Speaking of proud delegations, Arkansas delegates know that former President and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton is officially a member of the New York delegation. But as Dawne Vandiver, executive director of the Arkansas party, puts it: “Bill’s still one of us.”

In fact, Clinton, who’ll formally nominate Obama Wednesday night, hosted a fundraiser for the state party Tuesday night at the uptown Westin hotel, with about 600 guests expected – including actors Judd, Eric McCormack (of TV’s “Will and Grace”) and Adrian Grenier (HBO’s “Entourage”).

Texas vs. N.C. barbecue

Texas delegate Brian Hamon bragged Monday about his state’s barbecue – dry-rubbed seasoning on brisket, sausage, beef ribs or chicken. Not this pulled pork stuff.

So The Charlotte Observer challenged him to try North Carolina’s version at Queen City Q on Tuesday.

Hamon, 45, and another delegate ordered pulled pork and brisket barbecue and Brunswick stew.

Hamon called the brisket “different,” adding, “I’m not used to the vinegar. And they put in extra sugar, maybe brown sugar or honey, to compensate for the vinegar. A little heavy-handed, but it’s good.”

He liked the pulled pork, too.

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