LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Port Angeles’ Bob Peterson went from playing football to “carrying the football” in his lifetime.
Peterson, a three-sport star at Port Angeles High School, is one of 11 individuals who will be inducted as part of the 2020 class of the Port Angeles Roughrider Hall of Fame on Saturday night. The event was moved to Port Angeles Civic Field with both the 2020 and the 2021 classes inducted together.
Peterson, a three-sport star at Port Angeles, was an all-league and all-state selection for the Riders as a center and defensive tackle in 1963, helping to lead Port Angeles to a 7-1-1 record his senior year. He was good enough to go on to play football at Stanford University, being coached his freshman year by the legendary Bill Walsh. He went on to play varsity for Stanford under coach John Ralston, just missing playing with Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl champion Jim Plunkett, who was on the freshman team during Peterson’s senior year.
“I didn’t play as much as I’d had hoped. Some things work out, though,” he said.
After graduating from Stanford, he fell into arguably one of the most interesting careers of any of the Hall of Fame inductees. He literally met with kings, emperors, shahs, popes and presidents.
Peterson went to U.S. Air Force officer training school and became an Air Force pilot. From 1973-1977, he became a pilot for vice presidents, congresspeople and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In fact, one of his duties was flying Kissinger on a mission to Africa, the first visit to Africa by an American Secretary of State.
After 1977, Peterson became the U.S. Air Force aide to President Jimmy Carter.
As part of his role, Peterson said he often “carried the football,” i.e., the briefcase with the nuclear codes, “while the president attended to his duties.”
Peterson said when Carter would travel, there would be at least two military aides traveling with him. That later became three. Today, there’s at least five or six.
“Anywhere he went, we were there,” he said.
In his duties, Peterson met all sorts of world leaders — Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Menachem Begin of Israel, Pope John Paul II and Emperor Hirohito of Japan.
He also met the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, during a controversial visit to the White House. First of all during that visit, tear gas was used on demonstrators protesting against the Shah and the tear gas drifted back onto Peterson, Carter, the Shah and others.
Secondly, Peterson had to deal with the Shah’s personal security detail.
“When I stepped on the elevator with them, the Shah’s security detail wondered who this guy was. They really gave me a look,” he said.
Through it all, Peterson had nothing but admiration for Carter.
“He was tremendous. Both he and the First Lady [Rosalynn Carter] were wonderful people to be around,” Peterson said. He said the president always treated Peterson and his family well and “was one of the smartest people I’ve ever seen.”
Peterson eventually retired from the U.S. Air Force and became a pilot for the United Parcel Service, based in Louisville, Ky. After retiring from the UPS, he and his wife settled in Louisville and plan to move to Florida soon. He has always kept ties to Port Angeles, returning many times over the years to family property at Lake Sutherland.
“We get back every year. We always look forward to coming back and visiting,” he said.
Peterson said it’s a great honor to be inducted into the Roughrider Hall of Fame and has heard that as many as 600 people may attend the event at Civic Field.
“It’s pretty exciting to get that number of people to attend an event in Port Angeles,” he said.
The Hall of Fame event will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday. In addition to Peterson, the other 11 members of the class of 2020 include:
Curt Bagby, football and basketball coach.
Austin Farenholtz, diving.
Sam Hurworth, football.
Matt Lane, baseball.
Sonny Luke, football.
Jenny Nixon, swimming.
Janessa Roening, softball.
Bob Sheedy, track and field coach.
Cheri Simkins, badminton, triathlete.
Randy Steinman, pitcher, baseball and softball coach.
The 1966 boys and girls basketball teams.
The 2021 inductees are:
Pete Hohman, football and track coach.
Roger Oakes, team physician.
Jan Urfer, gymnastics coach.