Scott’s top secret projects aided war efforts
Louise Barbara Solomon Scott’s father was a strict disciplinarian, only allowing her out of their Monongahela home to go to church or school.
She was allowed to have friends in her home, but was never permitted to visit others.
So she longed for a chance to see what was out there beyond her hometown. She seized that opportunity during the beginning of the country’s involvement in World War II and did not return for nearly 60 years.
For more than three decades, Scott served her country on top secret projects during three wars.
A litany of health concerns brought her back home. Still, the 91-year-old Mon Valley Care Center resident vividly recalls her outstanding service and life that led the self-proclaimed “celebrity chaser” to see 11 presidents as well as the Pope, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.
Scott graduated from Monongahela High School in 1937, admittedly “with a report card full of As” except for physical education, which she did not care for. It was in the city that her father, John Solomon, owned a downtown clothing store.
She was one of three sisters, including Dorothea, an Army nurse, and Julia Mae, who passed away just two years ago. There were also two brothers, Samuel, who served in the Army during World War II, and George.
Scott attended Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, as well as two business schools.
“I was always in a class of some sorts,” she recalled. “I had a wonderful teacher in Monongahela who introduced us to the library.”
Scott considered traveling abroad, and her parents tried to encourage her to visit the Middle East as she is of Lebanese descent.
“But I refused because they treat their cattle a little better than their women,” she said.
Scott read a want ad in the newspaper for help needed in “the war effort.”
She traveled from Monongahela to Donora where a test was being given to applicants. She scored high and was offered a job in Washington, D.C. Arriving in the nation’s capital on April 15, 1942, she worked briefly in the patent office of the Commerce Department.
Although she later worked in the home economics section of the Department of the Agriculture where the United Nations flag was designed, Scott spent most of her 33-year government career in the Pentagon working for both the Army and Air Force.
Scott was assigned a top secret mission in Philadelphia, filling requisitions from front line units for communication receivers and transmitters.
It was in the City of Brotherly Love that she recalled seeing then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“There he was cruising on Broad Street with his driver,” said. “He had his signature cigarette holder and we wore a fedora. That was such a thrill because my father was such a fan of FDR.”
She was in San Francisco at the war’s end. It was there that she saw the USS Missouri and viewed the surrender documents signed by the Japanese that ended the war.
She worked for the Department of Defense during the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. Her top secret work ultimately involved development of the Patriot missiles, although she is careful not to divulge too much. Upon retirement in 1975, Scott was required to sign a document vowing not to talk about the specifics of her work.
“I knew how to zip my mouth,” she said.
Although she retired in 1975, Scott remained in Washington, D.C., until 1999 when she underwent cancer surgery.
During her time in Washington D.C., she saw 11 presidents.
“I liked (Ronald) Reagan the best,” she said. “He was so charismatic. They made a nice couple, she adored him. But I can’t get the fact he had Alzheimer’s in the end.”
She was standing near the Washington Hilton Hotel waiting for a chance to see President Reagan on March 30, 1981. Instead, she witnessed the ambulance that rushed the president away after an attempted assassination.
She attended John Kennedy’s inauguration and visited Dwight Eisenhower’s Gettysburg home.
She saw the Pope in 1976 as he exited the White House. She also came close enough to touch Mother Teresa.
“I regret to this day that I did not extend my hand,” Scott said. “We were this close.”
She saw the Dalai Lama at Constitution Hall. The list of celebrities she saw in person includes Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Count Bassie, and Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Lucille Ball, Tony Bennett, Frankie Lane, Perry Como and Bobby Vinton.
Looking back 66 years later, Scott is glad she made the decision to take the government job in Washington, D.C., that led to her career. Noting that she had to initial many of the letters she wrote for requisitions, Scott said with a laugh, “My initials are all over the Pentagon.”
“Going to Washington, D.C. – that was the best thing I ever did in my life. I spent 60 wonderful years there and didn’t come back until I had to.”