Powers Reception Held

By: Fred Keoing
6/4/99

The Hannibal born author who has just taken his turn at retelling the story of Hannibal's most famous son received a warm welcome in the heart of Mark Twain's newest shrine Thursday evening.

Ron Powers was given a publication party at the Mark Twain Museum for his new book "Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy who Became mark Twain." The wine and cheese reception was held in thee midst of new exhibits representing the works of Twain.

In a presentation ceremony, State Rep. Robert Clayton of Hannibal brought " a word form the government," and presented Powers with honors from the Missouri Senate, House of Representatives and the governor.

The fanfare was not quite enough to raise Twain from the dead, but it did bring a local Mark Twain impersonator out of retirement. rep. Clayton introduced "Mark Twain" as a humorist who is truly funny. Judge Robert M. Clayton, as Twain, took the podium and said that a funny humorist is rare, but not as rare as Clayton.

"He is a rarer creature, a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets," he said.

Dressed in white and smoking a cigar, the image of Twain spoke to the crowd with Twain's own words, giving humorous commentary on smoking, drinking and the accident insurance business.

"I had an uncle who was killed who never had insurance, and he was always sorry about it afterwards," he said.

Clayton stayed in the Twain character, even while taking a few friendly jabs at his son and Powers.

Later Clayton said he is retired as Twain, and this will be his last time to don the white suit and gray hair.

"I'm doing this as a favor for an old friend," Clayton said. "Ron (Powers) and I were schoolmates; he was a year younger than me."

Powers is locally known for a book he wrote that was published in 1986 called "White Town Drowsing," which weaves Hannibal history with stories of local political battles during the town's sesquicentennial celebration in 1985. his national fame comes from winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and an Emmy Award in 1985.

Powers, who spoke following the remarks from Twain, began his speech by saying how impressed he is with the Mark Twain Museum.

"Where we are tonight is an American treasure," Powers said. "It will be a treasure for 100 years to come. I'm proud to be a part of this."

Powers read from the last chapter of his book, which detailed Mark Twain's last visit to Hannibal. It describes a time when Hannibal was ripe with prosperity, and Twain was reflecting of life gone by. The stir caused by Mark Twain's last visit caused a flurry of activity in the town that had been made famous by his writings, and wasn't expecting his visit home.

"He was the first public man who would actually cause a frenzy on the streets," Powers read from his book.

Although Powers has not achieved Twain's fame, and his visit was lower key, the parallel of the two events was obvious. Powers quickly socialized with old acquaintances who date back to his days of growing up in Hannibal. People stood in line with his latest book under their arms, waiting to shake his hand and get an autograph.

Powers said his fascination with Twain started in his boyhood days in Hannibal, where he lived until age 17. In his book he focused on how Twain overcame the darkness of his boyhood.








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