Last weekend, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" brought in $25 million at the box office during its debut weekend. The film, staring Forest Whitaker, is based on the life of Eugene Allen, a butler who worked in the White House for 34 years. Although Allen served honorably under 8 presidents, he wouldn't have gotten to his position without the man who trained him, Alonzo Fields.
Alonzo Fields made history as the first African-American to be promoted to chief butler of the White House. After his retirement, the Indiana native wrote a book, "My 21 Years in the White House," and later was the subject of a one-man theater show, "Looking Over the President's Shoulder."
Fields did not always aspire to be in domestic service, according to a profile in USA TODAY. His first dream was to be an opera singer. To pay for his tuition at the New England Conservatory of Music, Fields took a job as a butler to Samuel Stratton, the president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1931, Stratton died suddenly, leaving Fields without a job and unable to continue to pay for his education. To his fortune, Lou Henry Hoover, wife of President Herbert Hoover and close friend to Samuel Stratton, had an opening for a butler at the White House. She offered Fields the position. By 1933, Fields had been promoted to chief butler.
Alonzo Fields left the White House in 1952 and lived the rest of his life in Medford, Massachusetts.
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