Carrying on the family tradition in inaugural parade

SALEM, VA. – Two young men with Salem ties were the second and third generation to march in President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Parade on Monday.

Virginia Military Institute cadet Riley Herkness Newsom of Salem is the third generation with the Herkness name to march. His great-grandfather, Lindsay Coates Herkness, marched when Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated in 1912, when Herkness was a cadet at West Point, his family said.

Virginia Military Cadet Andy Richards, shown with his uncle, Col. Jim Richards, retired, who lives in Check, Va., now share the tradition of marching as VMI Cadets in presidential inaugural parades.

VMI cadet Andy Richards’ uncle, Jim Richards, was in the VMI corps Class of 1962 that marched in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade in 1961. Although Andy Richards graduated from Hidden Valley High School, his dad, Bill Richards, has Richards and Associates Allstate Insurance agency in Salem on Apperson Drive.

Newsom’s grandfather, “Wayne Herkness II, marched in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s parade in 1936 when he was at the Naval Academy,” said Herkness’ daughter and Newsom’s mother, Damon Newsom of Salem.

The entire corps of cadets went to Washington, D.C., on 28 buses, leaving VMI at 6 a.m. and returning just after 11 p.m. The corps marched in their first inaugural parade in 1909 and this was the 14th time they have marched, Newsom said.

“The VMI cadets had to remove a piece of the firing mechanism from their rifles last week in order to pass security for the parade, even though the guns are not loaded,” Newsom said her son told her. “They marshaled in the Pentagon parking lot and went through security there hours before the parade.”

She continued, “Obviously, it was a long day for everyone but Riley said he was 20 feet from President Obama and Vice President Biden and saw them both clearly. His arms were tired by the end of the day – holding an 11.5-pound rifle – but his enthusiasm was still strong. His pride in being an American and a cadet at VMI was huge!” she added.

Andy Richards is a third-classman (sophomore) at VMI. “He’s really excited, about the tradition,” said his dad, who was interviewed while Andy Richards and his fellow cadets were waiting in the Pentagon parking lot hours before the parade.

“He’s really excited, about the tradition. He’s really crazy about his uncle who did this at the JFK inauguration,” Bill Richards said. “I think they were up at 4:30 this morning,” added his dad.

“They had to practice the day they got back from Christmas vacation, to march 13 men across – which is a different configuration from the usual VMI drill. The drill field was covered in snow,” his dad said.

Bill Richards and his wife, Teresa, who live in Cave Spring, made sure to videotape the parade. “We’re really excited for him. The funny thing is, they get back at 11 p.m. tonight,” Richards said Jan. 21, “and tomorrow is a regular class day for the cadets.”

Bill Richards is the only one of his family who didn’t choose to go to VMI. Both his brother Jim and dad, the late Fred Richards of Richmond, Class of 1933, went to VMI. “I grew up on an Army base my whole life, and I chose James Madison University when it was my time,” Richards said, laughing.