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Barack Obama's family tree grows and grows

December 12, 2007 |  2:20 am

It seemed a surprise for all concerned to learn earlier this year that Barack Obama is related to Dick Cheney (as well, it turns out, to George W. Bush). Now, Obama's unusual genetic mix (black father from Kenya; white mother from Kansas), has garnered him a chance to join the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

The head of the society's Iowa branch, Mike Rowley, extended the invite in a letter he sent to Obama's Senate office last week, noting that ancestral research had determined that the Democratic presidential contender -- through his mother's side of the family -- shares a blood line with Revolutionary War veteran John Miles Duvall.

In urging Obama to sign up, Rowley said that if he acted quickly, another honor would follow. He invited Obama to join him and other members of the society's state chapter later this month at a cemetery in Montrose, Iowa. There, Obama's induction would be celebrated and homage paid to Cato Mead, the one black Revolutionary War soldier known to have settled -- and died -- in the Hawkeye State, according to Rowley.

Rowley invoked Mead's name in part to call attention to legislation in Congress -- whose sponsors include Chris Dodd, Obama's rival in the Democratic presidential race -- to build a new monument in Washington commemorating, as the effort's website spells out, the more than 5,000 blacks who volunteered to fight in the American Revolution.

We tracked down Rowley, 50, at his home in a Des Moines suburb and, in elaborating on his letter, he displayed the political savvy we've come to expect from Iowans. He said that even though time is growing short, he hoped to organize the event at Mead's grave site while Iowa is awash with presidential wannabees (Dodd also has been invited). Once the state's Jan. 3 caucuses are over, he agreed, candidate visits to Iowa will be few and far between.

Rowley said Obama's office acknowledged receipt of his letter and said it would get back to him, if matters could be arranged. As of Tuesday night, he said, there'd been no further word.

-- Don Frederick