HOUSTON (CN) - Bill Clinton got a rock star's welcome Monday morning in Houston, his first stop on a whirlwind tour of Texas ahead of Super Tuesday primaries that could secure his wife's Democratic nomination for president.
A crowd of more than 500 gathered at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which honors African-American regiments the U.S. Army commissioned during the Civil War. They got the "Buffalo Soldiers" nickname from Native Americans, who said their curly hair reminded them of buffaloes.
Capt. Paul Matthews, the museum's founder and executive director, said that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a high-energy Democrat who is often spotted at press conferences around town, brought Bill Clinton to the museum to speak.
Matthews said he doesn't think the changes that President Bill Clinton made in the 1990s to the country's welfare policies, which critics say had a negative impact on African-American families, would hurt Hillary Clinton's standing in the black community.
"The African-American community is not a one-issue community. There are a lot of things that we need to be involved in and I think someone like her can see the big picture, and I think the African-American public can see the big picture," Matthews told Courthouse News.
Matthews' soft voice was nearly drowned out by the caffeinated buzz of conversation between the business attired who stopped by on their way to work, mothers pushing strollers, college students and stylish older Clinton fans - most notably an elderly black woman in a tiger-print bowler hat and jacket - as they waited for Bill Clinton to take the stage.
Matthews said that, although he stays informed about politics, prior to this presidential election cycle he didn't know anything about Hillary Clinton's opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
"If it wasn't for this election, someone like me who's in tune to politics, I didn't have a clue as to what his background was. And it's marketing too. I mean look at the Republican side. You have an individual that's leading the pack who did TV shows and he wasn't involved in major politics. So it's a strange election year," Matthews said.
Texas Sens. Sylvia Garcia, a Hispanic, and Rodney Ellis, an African-American, worked up the crowd before Bill Clinton took the stage.
"She's the most experienced candidate in the history of the United States," Ellis said of Hillary Clinton, adding that the Clintons' political roots in Texas go back to 1972 when they registered Hispanic voters in South Texas.
Garcia said the best way to build on President Baracak Obama's legacy is to elect Hillary Clinton. She also urged the crowd to imagine how Bill Clinton would take to the role of "First Dude" if his wife is elected.
"Ladies, I think it's your turn to have the first dude at the White House," Garcia said to hoots and cheers. "And I couldn't think of a better dude than Bill Clinton. You know he's going to have some fun."
Bill Clinton took the stage around 8:30 a.m. and put his signature little boy's smile and expressive saxophone player's hands to work.
Clinton, his Southern drawl hoarse from his grueling appearance schedule, touched on gun control. He said that, growing up in Arkansas, guns were a way of life for him.