Portrait of a Presidency
August 1974

“Portrait of a Presidency,” Ensign, Aug. 1974, 33

Special Issue: Temples

Portrait of a Presidency

Leaders Called for Washington Temple
Stewards in the house of the Lord, the temple presidency and matron labor for the living and the dead.

Brother Edward E. Drury, Jr., finished up the last of his work as president of the Delaware-Maryland Mission, fastened his suitcase, and returned to Salt Lake City to report to the First Presidency.

On Wednesday, he and his wife met with President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency and President S. Dilworth Young of the First Council of the Seventy. They discussed the three years the Drurys had spent in the mission field.

It was Friday. President Drury had finished a relaxing round of golf with his son and had returned to his sister’s home where he was staying.

The phone message was waiting. The president of the Church, Harold B. Lee, wanted to see Edward and Louise Drury the next morning.

“We had a fitful night!” President Drury recalls. Had something gone wrong in Maryland? Had the report been incomplete, unsatisfactory?

At 10:00 the next morning President Lee welcomed the nervous couple into his office and spent half an hour discussing a number of things, including his planned departure that afternoon for Munich and the area general conference.

“Of course, you know this isn’t a social visit,” the prophet said. The Drurys had known all along that it wasn’t.

“Then he said the Lord wanted me to be president of the Washington Temple, and Sister Drury to be matron,” President Drury recalls. “When the prophet of the Lord says that the Lord has called you, what more can you say?”

Wendell and Nedra Eames had just pulled into the driveway of their home in Silver Springs, Maryland, after vacationing in the western United States.

President Eames, his arms full of baggage, made his way toward the house. There he was met with a ringing telephone.

A slight crackle stirred the air. It was long distance.

“President Eames, President Lee would like to speak to you.”

Wendell Eames, still awed and touched by the spirituality of the general conference he had just attended, accepted a call to serve as first counselor to the president of the Washington Temple. President Lee then asked if Brother and Sister Eames could meet him in New York in two days.

“We took the air shuttle and met him in his hotel room,” President Eames explains.

The prophet instructed the couple, set President Eames apart, and gave him the sealing power for both the living and the dead.

“The great conclusion I came to was that he was the prophet of God,” President Eames testifies. “It would be just about impossible to have been through that 50 minutes without knowing that he was a prophet of God.”

Arlington, Virginia, looked especially beautiful that autumn day as President Byron F. Dixon relaxed in a comfortable chair in his home. The ring of the telephone interrupted the tranquility of the afternoon.

“Byron, President Lee wants to talk to you. Could you hold on a minute?” The voice was that of Brother Arthur Haycock, secretary to President Lee and a personal friend of the Dixons.

President Lee’s soft voice spanned the hundreds of miles between Church headquarters and the edge of the nation where President Dixon waited anxiously.

“Brother Dixon, could you help us out?”

“Surely, Brother Lee, what can I do for you?”

“Well, we’d like you to help us out with the temple back there.”

“Well, naturally, I’d be happy to.”

“We’d like you to serve in the presidency.”

“Oh, Brother Lee … Yes, Brother Lee, I’d be thrilled to.”

Byron Dixon was breathless. President Lee asked him to come to New York. He agreed, and made the trip alone—but not really alone, for he had his wife’s support. Although she was in Utah with their daughter, who was expecting her third baby, she gave her husband the love and approval he needed—long distance.

Thus, three men and a woman were called.

The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith a sure way to identify those who were worthy and inclined to the highest callings: “And by their desires and their works you shall know them.” (D&C 18:38.) What, then, of the desires and works of those who were chosen to officiate in the Lord’s house constructed near the nation’s capital?

Works set them apart as men who have eagerly immersed themselves in all the programs offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Born August 7, 1908, Edward Drury completed a British mission in 1930, then was asked to head the MIA sports program in the Denver branch he called home. He was later called as branch president, then bishop, and finally stake president of the Denver Stake at the age of 33.

During the years he served as president, a number of men were called as counselors. Two later became General Authorities of the Church: John H. Vandenberg and Victor L. Brown.

Both have since served as presiding bishops of the Church, a position Bishop Brown now holds. Elder Vandenberg is currently an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve.

During the time the three served together, two of their goals were to establish a badly needed bishops storehouse and a gymnasium where the Church could host various sports activities.

Both became a reality. Later, in appreciation to the man who helped give their dreams substance, the stake presidents in the Denver area gained approval from the First Presidency to name the building the Edward E. Drury, Jr., Gymnasium.

For 21 years President Drury headed the Denver Stake, which originally covered part of Colorado and Wyoming. He was released as stake president to devote full time to a call to serve on the Priesthood Home Teaching Committee of the Church.

Only a few days after his release from the committee in 1967, he was called as one of the first Regional Representatives of the Council of the Twelve. That call was to serve in the Denver Region, a position he held for three years until his call as mission president in 1970.

Sister Drury, too, has always been busy serving in the Church, and because both she and her husband were also so actively engaged in Church assignments, they were often separated, especially on weekends.

“I didn’t have an assignment one Sunday, and my wife was slow getting out of the chapel,” President Drury recalls. “I said, ‘Come on, Louise, let’s go.’”

But Sister Drury, in her sweet, quiet humor, wouldn’t be hurried. “Listen, I’ve waited for you for 21 years. You can wait for me one Sunday.”

With humble and touching love and an evident devotion to each other, they feel blessed to be able to serve together. And both recognize the preparations their former positions have given them.

Both of the Drurys love the Lord and love to serve him. Once, when Edward Drury was a young stake president, he was burdened with a difficult decision. Elder Harold B. Lee visited stake conference and told President Drury that “as long as you do the work of the Lord, you will never want for anything.”

“And that has been my guide throughout life,” President Drury adds. “Some people consider working in the Church a sacrifice. We have never considered it to be so. It has been a great privilege.”

Sister Drury’s calling, that of temple matron, will place her in charge of matters pertaining to all of the sisters in the temple. She will be responsible for all women workers and for each female patron who comes through the temple.

She expressed great excitement at being able to work with the brides in the temple. “This is one of the matron’s special privileges, and one of the most enjoyable,” she explains. “Since her wedding day is the most important day in a girl’s life, it is a special time for all the workers in the temple. Those who are responsible for temples have made the bride’s preparation rooms, the instruction room, and the dressing rooms very special and lovely for this very special occasion.”

Sister Drury also considers it a privilege to work with those who are going through the temple for the first time. “Probably one of the most important aspects of temple work is working with the patrons who are in the temple to receive their own endowments,” she says, “because they are receiving a great gift that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Service to the Lord and his church has also been a theme echoed through the life of President Wendell Geddes Eames, first counselor to President Drury. After serving as Scoutmaster and as counselor in a bishopric, he was called to be bishop of the Washington Ward and then president of the Washington Stake.

Born May 30, 1917, young Wendell grew up in Preston, Idaho, only five miles from the town of Fairview, where Nedra Cole enjoyed childhood’s seasons. They met in school—and things seemed to get off to a sluggish start.

“I guess we dated occasionally for several years,” President Eames remembers. “Somebody said that it was a slow blossoming, but when it bloomed, it really bloomed!”

His life has been a colorful combination of exciting, and sometimes frightening, work. After graduation from the University of Idaho, Wendell reviewed the pages of yellowed newspapers and searched out wrinkled citizens who were the old settlers that tamed Idaho’s dusty beginnings. He was trying to gather information on the original companies that eventually merged to form Utah Power and Light Company.

After his marriage in 1939, Wendell took his bride to Washington, D.C., and started working for the Marriotts as a “curb hopper,” where he waited on cars and served as host at the Connecticut Avenue Hot Shoppe.

After six months of “hopping curbs,” Wendell Eames became a messenger for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Within a year and a half he had advanced to become an agent, and he spent the next 20 years as an FBI agent in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., in counter-espionage, communications and records, and personnel management. For the past two years he has been a private consultant with Leadership Systems, Inc.

President Eames tells of an important lesson learned while he worked for the FBI. As a new agent in Mississippi, Wendell Eames was summoned to a jail in a small town. The man being held in custody was accused of both state and federal offenses. Although a skilled interrogator had come from another county, no one had succeeded in breaking the man’s story.

“Then I came in, and they told me about it,” President Eames recalls. “I talked to him a short time, and he said he knew the FBI would find out anyway, because he had worked with us before.”

It wasn’t very many minutes before the young agent had a complete signed statement from the man behind bars.

“I guess I learned quite a lesson about heritage at the time,” President Eames says. “I decided then I would never do anything that would detract from the FBI’s heritage. I think that’s true in any organization you work for, including the Church. Those who have gone before you often make it much easier for you to do fine things.”

The same pride is demonstrated by President Byron F. Dixon, whose warmth and sense of duty pervade his call as second counselor.

“We simply feel it’s such a great honor. This is pioneering back here in a new Church work,” he explains.

And he is no stranger to Church work. With his astounding memory for even minute details and his delightful sense of humor, President Dixon considers that his service to the Lord started when he was made president of the deacons quorum in McCammon, Idaho. While he held that office, he attended a conference where Elder James E. Talmage was visiting. During the course of the conference, Elder Talmage suddenly asked if there was a deacons quorum president in the group. Young Byron’s adviser answered for him, and he was called to the stand to speak at his first conference—at the age of 12.

President Eames was born July 9, 1908, in Downey, Idaho. After high school, he served 10 years in the MIA, taught a missionary class at the age of 18 (he still vividly recalls the first lesson he taught), instructed high priests and seventies, and served on a two-year stake mission and as counselor to two bishops.

In 1944 President Dixon was called to be bishop of the Arlington Ward, and while he was bishop the first chapel in Virginia was dedicated. He subsequently served on the Washington Stake high council with the responsibility for welfare, and as counselor under two presidents of the Potomac Stake.

Welfare is one of his primary interests, and he remained active in the stake welfare program until last year. During the time he served in that capacity, he traveled over 5,000 miles looking for a welfare farm, often with General Authorities who visited that area.

His family has been a source of great joy throughout the years, as he has watched his two children grow and participate in the Church programs. When his first wife, Maude Hackney Dixon, suffered a heart attack and became seriously ill after almost 20 years of marriage, her sister Mabel came to take care of her. Despite loving care, Sister Dixon passed away in 1958.

The next year Byron and Mabel were married for eternity in the Logan Temple.

One of President Dixon’s favorite stories concerns that second temple marriage. Since his wife is a speech teacher, she is always suggesting that people “speak up!”

On the morning of their temple marriage, Byron Dixon and Mabel Hackney were witnessing a young couple’s wedding. Repeating her common lament, Sister Hackney whispered to her husband-to-be, “Oh, I wish they’d speak up!”

“And it came our turn,” President Dixon remembers. He chuckles, too, as he continues, “And when the officiator said, ‘Do you accept this man?’ she was supposed to say, ‘Yes.’ But, do you know, she was speechless!”

The officiator at the wedding waited. The silence was profound. Finally he looked at Mabel Hackney and said, “Just nod yes.”

“So here I am, married to her all these years, and she never said ‘Yes’!” President Dixon says.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard once counseled, “Brother Dixon, your life’s mission is that of a teacher.” That advice inspired President Dixon to stay in the field of education for 41 years, including seven years as a grade school and junior high school principal and 34 years as a professor and administrative officer at Benjamin Franklin University in Washington, D.C.

Exuding reverence at being able to work with Presidents Drury and Eames, President Dixon can remember a lifetime of great men he was privileged to work with and to know. He has walked life’s pathway with many of God’s chosen servants.

When Byron was a small boy, his father was bishop in McCammon, Idaho, and they owned a home a quarter of a mile from the railroad station. One room in the house was reserved especially for General Authorities who often had to stop and wait for the next train.

And while he has walked hand in hand with greatness, he has developed an unwavering and beautifully simple testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

“It’s a part of my life,” he explains. “I love the Church. Everything that the Church does, it’s just a part of us. There’s just too much evidence there to argue against any of it.”

So the temple leaders stand together, eager to see the completion of the temple and the results of the missionary work that the temple itself is expected to accomplish.

President Drury explains that one family in the area is building a new home—and they’ve included a place to take care of visitors who will come to the temple. President Eames remembers a nonmember woman who told him the temple was the most beautiful building she had ever seen. And he talks about some members of the Church who have each asked for over 100 tickets to the open house—for nonmember friends.

And they wait, eager to serve the members, each other, and the Lord; for the Lord has said that “where two or three are gathered in my name, … behold, there will I be in the midst of them. …”(D&C 6:32.)

Photography by Jed Clark

President Edward E. Drury, Jr., center, with first counselor Wendell Eames and second counselor Byron Dixon.

President and Sister Drury.

President Eames.

President Dixon.