White House servant dies at 90

WASHINGTON - Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, died on Wednesday in Takoma Park, Maryland. He was 90 and lived in Washington.

WASHINGTON - Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, died on Wednesday in Takoma Park, Maryland. He was 90 and lived in Washington.

His death was caused by renal failure, The Washington Post has reported.

Allen, who was black, started at the White House in 1952, when racial segregation prohibited him from using public restrooms in his native state of Virginia.

When he left the White House in 1986 he had witnessed not only defining moments in the country's history, but also in America's civil rights movement.

And on January 20 2009 he watched Barack Obama being sworn in as the nation's first black president.

"I never would have believed it," Allen told The Post from his seat at the inauguration.

"In the 1940s and 1950s there were so many things in America you just couldn't do. You wouldn't even dream that you could dream of a moment like this."

Allen began washing dishes and stocking cabinets at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue before rising to maître d'hôtel during the Reagan presidency.

He crossed paths with entertainers like Sammy Davis Jnr, Duke Ellington and Elvis Presley. He met the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr, travelled to Romania with President Richard Nixon and had a seat at the table as a guest at one of Reagans' state dinners.

Though Jacqueline Kennedy invited him to President John F Kennedy's funeral, Allen volunteered to stay at the White House to help with the meal after the service. She gave him one of the president's ties, which Allen framed.

Born on July 14 1919 in Scottsville, Virginia, Allen shared a birthday with President Gerald Ford and joined in Ford's birthday parties at the White House.

Allen's wife of 65 years, Helene, died in 2008. He is survived by his son, Charles; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. - New York Times

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