The Long March of Newt Gingrich: Part Two

Share:

December 19, 2011
This week, FRONTLINE is putting up excerpts from our 1996 biography, The Long March of Newt Gingrich. Watch part one, part three and part four.

“I think there was a period when he probably was a very lonely youngster. I really do. He didn’t dwell on it a great deal. It just always seemed as if Newton were always forward-looking. Always. What’s happened is past. What’s ahead is exciting. That’s the way I’m going to go.”
— Eleanor Tilton, mother of Newt’s high school friend

The Gingrich family moved to Columbus, Ga., after Newt’s stepfather Bob was stationed at Fort Benning in 1960. It was in Georgia that Newt made his first close friend, Jim Tilton, and the two young Republicans bonded over their shared love of movies, politics and military history. “Both of them spent a lot of time with military history and reading books and visualizing battles,” recalled Tilton’s widow Linda. “I think they began to see politics in the same way that they saw war.”

In high school, Newt ran Jim Tilton’s successful campaign for student body president and wrote and directed the senior class play — “That Wonderful Year 1960-61” — casting himself as Richard Nixon. (View the program.) He wrote a letter to Harper‘s Magazine predicting a coming Republican majority. (Read Harper‘s reponse.) At Jim Tilton’s suggestion, he went out for high school football (though his former coach recalls having trouble finding a helmet that could fit Newt’s head).

But his most shocking extracurricular activity was the furtive romance he began with his 24-year-old geometry teacher, Jackie Battley.

The Long March of Newt Gingrich was a co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Note: This section of the film was slightly edited from the original due to rights restrictions. Footage of The Magnificent Seven trailer courtesy of Producers Library.


More Stories

Russia Smuggling Ukrainian Grain to Help Pay for Putin's War
The ongoing theft of grain from Ukraine, which legal experts say is a potential war crime, is being carried out by wealthy businessmen and state-owned companies in Russia and Syria, an AP/FRONTLINE investigation has found.
October 3, 2022
10 Torture Sites in 1 Town: Russia Sowed Pain, Fear in Izium
Russian torture in Izium was arbitrary, widespread and absolutely routine for both civilians and soldiers throughout the city, an Associated Press investigation has found.
October 2, 2022
FRONTLINE Wins 4 News & Documentary Emmy Awards
Three FRONTLINE documentaries and an interactive investigation were honored at this year's News & Documentary Emmy Awards on Sept. 28 & 29, 2022.
September 28, 2022
Charleston, South Carolina’s Tourism Machine: Lack of scrutiny and accountability keeps public in dark about millions of taxpayer dollars spent every year
Lack of scrutiny and accountability has kept the public in the dark about millions of taxpayer dollars spent every year.
September 23, 2022