A Little Help for Your Friends
“I'm sitting in my parents' living room in Chatham, New Jersey. It's nine o'clock on a warm July evening. There's a knock on the door. Very strange for this time of night.
“You have to understand,” my friend Steve explains to me, “Nobody just comes knocking on your door at night in Chatham. It's a small town and everyone goes to bed early.
“The loud knock takes me by surprise. I'm not even sure if I should go to the door and answer. My mother is at the beach. My father and I are in the back of the house watching a Yankees game.
“It's a very humid summer evening. I am working in New York City for the summer and have arrived home only twenty minutes earlier.
“I stand at our front door. Another knock. Finally, I open it. Standing in front of me is a young, African-American man in a blue Air Force uniform. He is standing erect and tall. His uniform is pressed to perfection. I am dumbfounded. I have never seen this young man before.”
“‘Is Mr. Pfeiffer there, please?’ I'm thinking: Who is this person?
“‘Mr. Pfeiffer? Do you mean Ben Pfeiffer?’ That's my father.
“‘Yes. Mr. Ben Pfeiffer.’
“‘I'll get him. Please come in. Who shall I say is here?’
“‘My name is Clarence, I mean Clancy. Williams, sir.’ ”
Let me tell you about Steve Pfeiffer. He is recounting this story nearly 40 years after it happened. He has just stepped down as chairman of one of the largest law firms in the United States, Fulbright & Jaworski.
Elected three times by his partners, he ...