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Ohio's Oldest Delegate Makes Debut On National TV Monday Night

Ruby Gilliam
Ruby Gilliam

PHILADEPHIA - When the first evening session of the Democratic National Convention opens Monday night, 93-year-old Ruby Gilliam of the little town of Minerva in Carroll County, Ohio, will be on the stage in front of a nationwide television audience.

Gilliam, the oldest delegate to the Democratic National Convention, will be leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, something she says is a "great honor."

Early Monday morning, she was sitting outside the ballroom where the Ohio delegation is holding its morning meeting, eating a plate of scrambled eggs and potatoes and talking about her life in politics.

"I've been going to the convention since 1988,'' Gilliam said. "I've seen a lot of them."

Her first was in Atlanta, the convention where the Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis for president. He ended up losing the election badly to George H.W. Bush.

"I remember I fell down the stairs trying to help an elderly woman,'' said Gilliam, laughing at the irony. "Then there was a party where somebody dropped dead on the dance floor. It was quite a time."

Gilliam is a Hillary Clinton delegate; and proud of it.

"This convention might be the best of them all,'' Gilliam said. "This is different. This is history. All because we finally have a woman running for president. And I want to be a part of it."

Gilliam has been a part of history before. In World War II, she served as a WAVE in the U.S. Navy; and is proud of her service. She belongs to the WAVES national organization, the VFW and the American Legion and tries to stay active in all of them, despite the fact that she is now legally blind.

Long before she started going to conventions, the retired school teacher was involved in politics.

"I was county chair of the party for 30 years; and I used to work for (former state treasurer) Mary Ellen Withrow," Gilliam said.

She said she hopes the supporters of Bernie Sanders come around to support Clinton "because we're going to need them."

"I didn't much care for Bernie Sanders," Gilliam said. "I'm sure he is a very fine gentleman; don't get me wrong. But I couldn't support a socialist for president."

Gilliam said she is a bit nervous about her role in the national spotlight, but said she thinks she can handle it.

"Lord knows I have said the Pledge of Allegiance often enough over my life,'' she said.

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