RUSSELL LEE And anyone who labors under the impression that Ralph Yarborough held either Michael Dukakis or Bill Clinton in the slightest regardafter Dukakis put Bentsen on the ticket for Vice President in 1988 and Clinton made him Secretary of the Treasury in 1993simply did not know Ralph Yarborough. They certainly did not hear his speech to the 1992 Travis County Democratic Convention: a lengthy denunciation of the possibility of a Clinton nomination because it might again lead to Bentsen’s presence on the Democratic ticket. On the other hand, while all of Yarborough’s populist instincts flared against the corporate law firms and Establishment forces supporting NAFTA and GATT, he kept a very warm spot in his heart for Vice President Al Goreson of his political soul-mate and Methodist Building neighbor in Washington, Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee. Perhaps it demands too much of the human condition that we should even be so arrogant as to hope for a new generation of candidates who possess all of Ralph Yarborough’s steadfast qualities but can better lead us, because they have a grasp of the institutional factors, the politico-economic and social forces, at work. In the end, all of us who cherish the memory of this indefatigable war horse for the little people are compelled to ask: “Whence shall come another?” Dave Shapiro practices law in Austin. Ralph Among the People BY LARS EIGHNER WINTER LYNDON JOHNSON died cold one in Austin. It snowed several times and there were a few days the temperatures never got above freezing. To make matters worse, the natural gas distribution company had sold more gas that it had the capacity to deliver. Classes at the University of Texas were suspended a couple of times because the gas for heating was being diverted north. These were the days of the great energy crisis, so I do not know whether it was patriotism or simply that no one at the university had yet thought of demanding some of the university’s gas royalties be paid in kind. At any rate, the gas pressure was extremely low all over Austin. Nearly everyone was cold. At last, just as it seemed the university schedule was about to get straightened out, Lyndon Johnson died. His death was quite sudden and evidently there had been no preparations. In observance of the death, classes were suspended again, but the weather took another turn for the worse, and perhaps the university would have shut down again anyway. I cannot say why I decided to go the LBJ library where Lyndon Johnson was to lie in state. It was no colder outside than it was inside at the old co-op house where I lived, but there was an exceptionally bitter wind. I had a long wool overcoat, the only long coat I ever owned, and as I walked up Whitis Avenue toward the LBJ Library the wind whipped my coattails against my ankles. I must have been a bit early. I was in the first rank of observers behind the cordon. I stood there for quite a long time. Obviously, the arrangements had been put together in haste, and a number of the dignitaries were quite late. Those of us behind the cordon were told that we would not be admitted to the library until all the dignitaries had been escorted through. When things were already at least an hour late, a strong and persistent south wind came up. It was not any warmer than the wind that had blown from the north. It teared my eyes and I turned away. The crowd behind had grown to be perhaps twenty or thirty deep. But it seemed to me I recognized the man who was standing right behind me. Could I possibly be right? How could it be? The photographers and camera people had not turned our way, although they had thrown themselves, as if sacrificing themselves to the juggernaut, in front of the dignitaries who came up the red carpet from Sid Richardson Hall. I looked again. I was shuddering from the cold and I could not feel my fingers, although my hands were in my pocket and I was wearing fur-lined gloves. Yet, the man behind me, bare-headed, in a simple blue suit with a red tie, seemed impervious to the cold. He must have been nearly seventy then. I realized his relationship with Lyndon Johnson had not always been on the best terms, but after all, I had seen a number of Republicans admitted as dignitaries. I turned to the man behind me again. “Senator,” I said, “you mustn’t stand out here in the cold. Let me unhook the cordon. I’m sure they will admit you.” “Oh no,” Ralph Yarborough said quietly, “my place is out here with the people.” More than an hour later, when we reached the door of the library, he would not go ahead, but held the door open for me. The photographers never spotted him. Lars Eighner is the author of the memoir Travels with Lizbeth, and the novel Pawn to Queen Four, recently published by St. Martins Press. 14 FEBRUARY 23, 1996
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