John McCaslin

Not that he won't already feel at home when he appears for a town hall meeting today with students of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, but Sen. John McCain might be reminded that his alma mater has among the largest clubs of National Teen Age Republicans in America.

Episcopal was founded in 1839 as the first high school in Virginia, and when Alexandria was occupied by federal troops in 1861, the boarding school was forced to close its doors after 500 of its students enlisted as Confederate soldiers. For the next five years, the Yankees used the school as a military hospital.

Since then, its classrooms have produced senators, congressmen, governors, Rhodes scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners and soon, perhaps, a president.

A 1954 graduate of Episcopal, Mr. McCain says he will reflect today on the impact the school had on his life and character, having earlier credited the prep school's strict honor code "for my success in life."

"I learned that character is what you are in the dark," he said. "I have been in the dark, not just in prison but also in my public life, and during those times and throughout my life, the principles of the honor code are the compass that I've tried to follow."

During the four years he was schooled at the Alexandria campus, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee wrote for the student newspaper, was a member of the press and drama clubs, and played football, baseball and tennis, and wrestled. In fact, he once held the school record for "Fastest Pin," wrestling in the 127-pound weight class his senior year.

His senior yearbook entry reads: "It was three fateful years ago that the 'Punk' first crossed the threshold of The High School. In this time he has become infamous as one of our top-flight wrestlers, lettering for two seasons. His magnetic personality has won for him many life-long friends. John is remarkable for the amount of gray hair he has; this may come from his cramming for Annapolis or from his nocturnal perambulations. The Naval Academy is his future abode — we hope he will prosper there."

Fan club

Washingtonians will be filling the pews of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York for Friday's memorial service for conservative writer and editor William F. Buckley Jr., who died on Feb. 27.

Speakers for the 10 a.m. public service will include Mr. Buckley's son, Christopher Buckley, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Craig Shirley, president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs in Alexandria, who at the age of 8 managed the 1964 campaign for Barry Goldwater at his Syracuse, N.Y., elementary school, tells us that he first met Mr. Buckley in 1966 at the Syracuse/ Onondaga County Annual Conservative Party fundraiser.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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