St. Louis woman offers to give Obama the shirt off her back

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | 1:18 a.m. CDT; updated 12:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

INDEPENDENCE -- Clearly, the lady who offered to give Barack Obama the shirt off her back rattled him more than the lady next to her, whose top was emblazoned with a biceps-flexing Hillary Rodham Clinton and the words "Hillary Can Do It."

Obama had decided to take a stroll down one of this tiny town's quiet streets Monday after a speech on the topic of patriotism. That sort of public appearance isn't something the Democratic presidential candidate does often, and he encountered people welcoming him onto the porches of their bungalows and clamoring politely but energetically in small crowds to see him.

He obliged nearly everyone who wanted to shake his hand.

But he never wavered from his goal — the imposing white Victorian manse that Harry Truman called home and used as the "Summer White House" during his presidency. Proclaiming Truman "one of my favorites," Obama would chat briefly, then resume his walk toward the tour.

Until he met Tootie Williams, that is.

The St. Louis native was wearing an oversized white T-shirt. It featured a picture of him and said: "Obama's in the House."

Obama said he loved it. So Williams said she'd give it to him and started to peel it off.

This caused much laughter, but also obvious consternation on Obama's part, even after she assured him she had on another shirt underneath — which she did. As she struggled to remove the T-shirt with a mob of reporters and cameras looking on, he warned "Hold the rest of it down!"

Williams' counterpart in the Clinton shirt, Independence native Debbie Twyman, turned out to be an Obama supporter.

"You've got the face of the Democratic Party right here," she yelled, giving Williams a hug and referencing the Obama-Clinton coming-together last week in New Hampshire. "Welcome to unity."

Obama finally reached the Truman home for a brief visit.

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