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Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release March 3, 1997


Washington, D.C. - Rex Scouten, the White House Curator, who has served ten Presidents, will retire at the end of April. He first joined the White House as a Special Agent of the United States Secret Service under President Harry Truman. He went on to serve as Deputy to the Chief Usher, Assistant Regional Director for White House Liaison with the National Park Service, Chief Usher and for the last 11 years Curator. As Curator, Mr. Scouten is responsible for the White House collection of fine and decorative arts and the continuing research on the history and furnishings of the Executive Residence.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton says, "Rex Scouten's tenure as Curator has been marked by careful preservation and presentation of the art, architecture and history of America's house. He has devoted his working life to serving our country and its Presidents since l949. In every capacity he has served, he has demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism and patriotism. I'm sure I'm speaking for every First Family who has had the privilege to live in this wonderful house in the last 48 years when I say Rex Scouten has made a unique and unparalleled contribution to the nation. The President and I thank him on behalf of a grateful nation for his many years of dedicated service and wish him and his family all the best in his well-deserved retirement."

Mr. Scouten says he is most proud of the acquisitions to the permanent collection during his tenure including the last war time situation map prepared for President Franklin Roosevelt during WWII that he saw nine days before he died and which now hangs in the Map Room and the first painting by an African American artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner's Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, which now hangs in the Green Room. Mr. Scouten says 80 percent of the furnishings in the public rooms of the White House were acquired since he's been there. He said the restoration of the White House is ongoing: "Mrs. Eisenhower and the First Ladies who have succeeded her have replaced 80 percent of the Truman reproductions in the Public Rooms with period furniture, and there are 355 paintings in the collection. All of this, including major redecorating, has been accomplished with donated funds. Mrs. Clinton continues to improve the House and to add to the collection---a painting of Dolly Madison by Gilbert Stuart and the first by an African American, artist Henry Tanner, are among several she has added to the collection. The Blue Room has been beautifully redecorated, and she will undoubtedly oversee the refurnishing of the Red and Green Rooms before she leaves. I am certain those rooms will be equally as successful as the Blue Room."

Mr. Scouten will be celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary this year and says he and his wife would like to spend some time traveling. They are already planning a trip to Alaska. He also plans to travel around the country lecturing to schools and groups about the White House saying, "I have a lot of interest in the White Houses and have been blessed with the opportunity to be there and I have an obligation to share my experience with others."

And he has many stories to tell. As a Secret Service agent he traveled to forty countries with then Vice President Nixon. As Deputy to the Chief Usher, he was on duty when President Eisenhower suffered his slight stroke. He was supervising the redecoration of the Oval Office when word came that President Kennedy had been shot. He put the office back in order later that evening and helped make arrangements for the state funeral and for the visiting world leaders. He did not leave the White House for five days during that period. As Assistant Regional Director for White House Liaison, he made significant contributions to Lady Bird Johnson's beautification program and strengthened the National Park Service's role in historic preservation at the White House. Scouten played a role in the numerous state visits during the nation's two hundredth birthday under the Ford administration. When President Carter restricted his public appearances because of the hostage crisis in Iran, Scouten helped bring the country to the White House with an unprecedented 377 public events. And he was in the White House Solarium with Mrs. Reagan when a Secret Service agent told her the President had been shot.