This obit doesn't fully convey the man. It couldn't. He was a Texan who came to DC straight out of law school in 1956 to go to work for LBJ in the Senate. He was a new dealer and a liberal (I never knew the detail in the obit about his grandfather. I did meet his father once, a wonderful old Lost.) Somehow, my father, 16 years older, must have met him around 1959 when we came back to DC and they became great friends. Harry got me a summer job in the Senate when I returned from Africa in 1963. Then he got into the subcabinet under JFK, which must be an interesting story, but as soon as Kennedy died LBJ moved him into the White House. He was part of that extraordinarily heroic and tragic period in our history from 1964 through 1968, and he described it with a typical mixture of insight, warmth and calm in his remarkable book, A Political Education. I think we will be hearing more from Harry, shortly, too, when Robert Caro's fourth volume on LBJ, covering the years 1959-64, comes out in just a few months.
Harry was one of my most important teachers about the world of politics. He shared a lot of information with me and with my whole family.
More importantly, Harry was one of the only people who ever worked for LBJ without sacrificing his personality, perhaps because he obviously had a great relationship with his own father. "We had an arms length relationship," he told me once, and other historians have found he was not afraid to criticize his boss. Like most bullies, LBJ would back off when confronted by anyone who wouldn't take it, and Harry was among those. He was one of the two key figures--Clark Clifford was the other--in deciding LBJ not to escalate the war after Tet in 1968. He was the drafter of the speech announcing the partial bombing halt, on March 31, 1968 I believe, which concluded with LBJ's own surprise ending, saying that he would not run again.
As the obit shows, Harry became the Clark Clifford of his generation: the man who came to DC to do good and stayed to do well. Yet he also played the role of the Artist archetype. His attempts to settle the case between the government and the tobacco companies remind me of his fellow Artist Henry Clay's equally great and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to ward off the civil war.He remained a great gentleman to the last, and his second wife is a wonderful person as well.
You all know how much I miss the political world of my childhood. I have tears in my eyes right now because he was not only a dear friend, but one of the men who made it what it was.