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'Anchors Aweigh' prank at West Point got Ross Perot and buddy a few hours in jail

H. Ross Perot, an honorary member of the Special Forces regiment, stands in front of a statue he commissioned and donated to the Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

RUSSELL KLIKA/U.S. ARMY

By CHERYL HALL | The Dallas Morning News | Published: July 13, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Pete Dawkins is pretty sure he's the only guy to ever to be locked up in jail with Ross Perot.

In the mid-70s, Perot was speaking to the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy.

Dawkins, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1958 while playing halfback at West Point, happened to be on campus at the same time. Both were staying at the quarters of the academy's chaplain, Jim Ford.

"Ross was invited to speak to the cadets from time to time, and when he did so, he had a habit of peppering his comments with light-hearted, mirthful jabs about the superiority of the Navy," said Dawkins, a Rhodes Scholar who rose to the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army.

"Chaplain Ford provoked Ross into the idea of playing 'Anchors Aweigh' on the bells at the roof of the chapel at 1:30 in the morning – which, of course, would resonate up and down the Hudson Valley, throughout the cadet barracks and for miles beyond," Dawkins recalled. "To get to the carillon, we had to walk up these back circular stairs, then creep across planks at the top of the church.

"We were kinda giddy with the mischief. Then with great gusto, Ross did indeed play 'Anchors Aweigh.'

From their high vantage point, Dawkins and Perot could see lights coming on in the dormitories and then cadets storming up the hill toward the chapel.

"We scrambled down the passageway believing that the event was over," Dawkins laughed. "But when we got to the door of the chapel, the military police were there, and they arrested us."

Somewhere in the midst of all this, the Rev. Ford had skedaddled, leaving Perot and Dawkins to face the music.

"We were laughing about it, thinking it was a big joke," Dawkins said. "But the military police didn't have a great sense of humor, so we're locked up in jail for several hours. We began to get concerned that this was really something more than a prank.

"Finally, the superintendent got awakened, got the gist of it and thought it was a hoot. So we were released."

Any record of their "criminal activity" was expunged.

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