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Lucille Ball, Four Others Awarded Medal of Freedom

July 6, 1989 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lucille Ball was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday, as President Bush described her and the four other recipients as American heroes.

Also receiving the nation’s highest civilian award in a ceremony in the White House East Room were former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, aviator and war hero James H. Doolittle and statesmen Douglas Dillon and George Kennan.

″You have left an indelible mark as you have enriched this nation, and America is grateful,″ Bush told the recipients, adding that they ″embody the achievement, vision and dedication that is the greatness of this country.″


Gary Morton, Miss Ball’s husband, accepted the medal for the carrot-topped comedian who died April 26 at age 77.

″Lucille Ball was a national treasure who brought laughter to us all,″ Bush said. ″She was like everyone’s next-door neighbor, only funnier.″

Miss Ball was known to generations of television viewers as the wacky housewife on ″I Love Lucy.″

Doolittle, 92, was a war hero, aviation pioneer and retired military general who has received the Silver Star and Congressional Medal of Honor.

Bush said Doolittle ″electrified the world″ when he led the first U.S. air strike on Japan after the Japanese devastated Pearl Harbor. The U.S. raid on April 18, 1942, dubbed ″30 seconds over Tokyo,″ inflicted negligible damage but shocked a nation that had been told by its emperor that it could never be attacked.

The raid was welcome news in the United States, and ″Little Jimmy″ Doolittle became an instant hero.

Doolittle, a retired general, was ″the master of the calculated risk″ and a ″trailblazer in modern aviation,″ Bush said.

Smith, 91, a Maine Republican, served in Congress for 32 years, both in the House and the Senate. She served under six presidents, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.

Bush praised her ″historic and courageous speech″ denouncing the tactics of 1950s anti-communism crusader Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

The president described the 85-year-old Kennan as ″truly a visionary″ on U.S.-Soviet relations.

Kennan, a diplomat for 27 years, ″shaped the way Americans have thought about foreign policy in the post-war era,″ Bush said.

In addition to writing extensively on the Soviet Union and foreign affairs, Kennan served in several posts in the State Department during the 1940s and 1950s. He was ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1952-53 and ambassador to Yugoslavia in the early 1960s.

Dillon’s career included stints as ambassador to France under President Eisenhower, undersecretary of state in the 1950s and Treasury secretary from 1961-65.

Bush praised Dillon for his contributions to Latin America and Western Europe policy in developing President Kennedy’s tax policy, described at the time as revolutionary.

Dillon, 79, later was chairman o the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Bush called him ″truly a Renaissance man.″