Gary Keith’s biography of Bob Eckhardt is of special interest to me because I have known most of the players in this story and was a good friend not only of the congressman but also of John Henry Faulk, Ronnie Dugger, Willie Morris, and a host of Texas pols (“The Man in the Panama Hat,” January 11, 2008). I am also an acquaintance of Eckhardt’s second wife, Nadine Brammer.
Eckhardt’s third wife, Celia Morris, was one of my finest students and is a brilliant intellectual. We have been close friends for over 50 years, and I was a frequent visitor in her homes with Willie in Austin, Oxford, and New York, and later at her home with Eckhardt in Washington, D.C. On every occasion, she was a gracious, outgoing hostess, making guests welcome in a stimulating home. Willie, and later Bob, basked in the friendly and intellectually exciting ambience that Celia created.
Unfortunately, Keith glosses over the important contribution of Eckhardt’s three wives to his success, apparently too unsure of Bob’s greatness to tell his story warts and all.
His treatment of Celia is particularly unfair. Although he frequently cites her autobiography, Finding Celia’s Place, he ignores her authoritative account completely when it comes to her concern over Bob’s failure to face and resolve his very substantial debts.
This is only the most flagrant example of Keith’s bias in minimizing Bob’s serious moral lapses. Despite his lofty populist principles, Bob Eckhardt was not only irresponsible in money matters, but capable of cruelty and the callous exploitation of persons who loved and cared for him. Celia is entirely too worthy, loving, and generous to be written off as an angry woman.
I trust that if there is a second edition, Keith will include more of Bob’s failures along with his virtues. He will still be remarkable, and none of us who knew and honored him would be surprised to read that he wasn’t always true to his principles.
John SilberPresident EmeritusBoston UniversityBoston, Massachusetts
SHE, HERSELF, AND “I”
Many thanks for the richly informative issue of February 22, 2008. Special thanks for laying out the gory and cumbersome details regarding the Demo Derby caucus hurdles. Teaching Texas and U.S. government was always a challenge. How do teachers explain the Demo superdelegates and Texas’ multilayered caucus confusion? Clearly, the Texas caucuses will be the domain of those with time and money to spare. How democratic is that?
The essays by Clinton and Obama were perhaps even more revealing than intended. Clinton favors personal pronouns (I, me, mine, etc.) in speeches and debates. Her Observer item sported 40 examples. Obama, on the other hand, comes in with 21. Very interesting.