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SHIL014′ CHARLES S DYER REST WITH OVER 2500 CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS WHOSE BURIAL SITE REMAINS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD CAPITOL OFFENSES Dying to Get In The State Cemetery’s Posthumous Pecking Order BY LUCIUS LOMAX T he most exclusive real estate in Texas lies about a mile from the state Capitol in a poor neighbor hood of east Austin, hard against black churches and taco joints. It’s the Texas State Cemetery, and people are dying to get in. President George W. Bush Claimed his slice of ground on the small rise called Republic Hill, in the southwest corner of the cemetery’s rolling 22 acres. A couple of years ago the then-governor went to the cemetery and picked out the spot himself. Of course, Arlington National Cemetery is now an option for Bush. \(The new president has also hinted that he wants to be without the promise of W’s bones, the State Cemetery, now celebrating its sesquicentennial year, has come to be known as the state’s version of Arlington. Among the neighbors who are already waiting to share eternity with the commander in chief’s remains are Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas, and Bob Bullock, the Democratic lieutenant governor who showed a Republican novice the road to the White House. Despite its modest surroundings, the cemetery is now what Lieutenant Governor Bullock wanted it to be: well-manicured, well-maintained, and home to a huge Lone Star flag that you can see from as far away as Louisiana. But the selection process used to decide who will be buried there has become a little like Bullock himself: as corrupted by cronyism as it is impressive. As the story goes, Bullock was embarrassed by the rundown condition of the cemetery during the well-attended funeral eight years ago of former governor John Connally. After a $5 million restoration and a few high-profile funerals, including Bullock’s own, anybody who is anybody in Texas politics now wants to be buried there. And yes, they do take reservations. Every five or six weeks a committee of three wise men meets to decide who is “worthy” to be buried at the state’s graveyard. Together the three committee members reflect the major power centers of recent Texas history. The chairman is Martin A _llday, an oil and gas attorney from Midland. Allday is George Bush’s man on the committee he was the elder Bush’s campaign chairman during an unsuccessful 1964 Senate race, and Allday has known the younger Bush since W was only eight years old. Ralph Wayne, the second committee member, was long one of Lieutenant Governor Bullock’s henchmen: Both served in the Texas House of Representatives, and Wayne was deputy comptroller when Bullock was State Comptroller of Public Accounts. Lastly there is George Christian, Democratic big dog and former press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson. “It’s up to us,” Chairman Allday said in an interview, “as threeI thinkgood citizens, Co decide who should be honored to be out there.” There are two ways someone can be honored at the State Cemetery. In its wisdom, the Legislature long ago dictated that any elected state official has an automatic right to burial there. The members of the commit tee have no leeway here: No matter how short or inauspicious his or her tenure, a state officeholder is eligible for a few square feet of ground in east Austin. The unintended consequences of this arrangement are considerable. Warren G. Harding, one-time state treasurer who pled guilty to felony 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/16/01