Beloved Austinite Lowell Lebermann’s memorial service  Thursday afternoon on the UT campus  produced a lot of tears–but most of them were from laughter of the throng of admirers who packed the LBJ Library Auditorium. All of the speakers shared personal stories about some experience with the popular former City Councilman and University of Texas Regent.

 UT president Bill Powers, former Lebermann aide Cappy McGarr, former Lt. Governor and close friend Ben Barnes and former UT President Larry Faulkner all sprinkled humor amidst touching tributes to his brilliance, courage, leadership and generosity to the community.  Then, before delivering the benediction, Bishop John E, McCarthy recalled when he first met Lebermann, who was a Catholic.  “He was very gracious and told me he would help me,”  McCarthy said. “Then  he quickly added, ‘–but you need to know I’m not a fanatic’.”

Lebermann’s will insisted on a party after the service at Austin’s downtown power center, the Headliners Club. There, the city’s establishment toasted  their dear friend and swapped more tales that help lighten their loss.  But Lebermann would have been most touched by two other gestures of the day:  the UT Longhorn Band playing “The Eyes of Texas” to close the service, and the  UT Tower glowing orange in final tribute to him that night.

–Julian Read

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In 1951, former Texas legislators George Nokes and Dolph Briscoe were invited to the White House to meet then President Harry S. Truman during a visit to Washington, DC.  The meeting occured shortly after the President had discharged General Douglas MacArthur, hero of the Allies’ World War II victory against Japan in the Pacific Theater. That happened much later, of course, on April 11, 1951, during the Korean War when MacArthur commanded a United Nations force and publicly disagreed with Truman’s Korean War policy. It was years after the general has garnered wide acclaim throughout the nation, including honors bestowed during a speech to the Texas Legislature.

Nokes, today retired and a member of the “Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club” of prominent  used-to-bes at the Waterloo Ice House on West 38th Street,  remembers the conversation got around to MacArthur, and the President wasted no niceties in describing what took place. “I travelled all the way to Wake Island to meet with that (expletive). I told him very specifically not to cross the Yalu River (for fear China would come into the war)” the President said. “And before I got  home, he disregarded my order. So I fired the son-of-a-bitch. I pointed out that the Constitution says I am the Commander-in-Chief.”

Nokes says that when he and Governor Briscoe left the White House, they were encountered by a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter who asked them the inevitable question: “what did you and the President talk about?” “Oh, we couldn’t possibly talk about a private conversation in the White House,”  Nokes answered. “Except,”  he added, “I did tell him I supported his foreign policy.”  “You just made more news than you meant to,” the reporter replied, acccording to Nokes.

Legendary Texas Associated Press chief photographer Harry Cabluck has seen tens of thousands of the famous and infamous through his lenses over a 55-year career, first with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and for the past 40 years with AP.

And last week during a photo shoot of me in connection with my alleged retirement, he stopped by a collector pair of paintings outside my office of former U.S. Presidents engaging in poker games. After lingering a moment over the two lifelike scenes–one of eight Democrats and another of eight Republicans, Harry noted matter-of-factly, that “I have covered ten of those Presidents.”

After prompting, he recalled photographing Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He probably could write a small book about  his up-close and personal encounters with the range of Commanders-in-Chief.  But several highlights stand out: shooting President Ford in the Great Hall in China in the company of Deng Xiao Ping; and photographing President Carter on the Salmon River in Idaho during his Western Vacation, in what he describes as one of the most glorious settings in his  memory. Harry also recalls that President Johnson was finicky about how he was photographed. The story goes that artist Peter Herd once told the President  that he had a “friendly side.” Henceforth, Johnson encouraged photographs shot from that side. Harry couldn’t recall for sure which side it was. So just for fun, our firm president and my blog mentor Paul Walker did a bit of research, and he turned up a majority of pictures focused on the left side of the President’s face. So we will assume that LBJ worked his will…as he so often did.

–Julian Read

 

– of the====..–one of Democrats

The Austin American-Statesman and other media today reported that  I will retire as Chairman of Cohn & Wolfe Read-Poland effective July 31.  But the online version was a bit more accurate with the headline…”Public Relations Veteran to Retire…in a Way.”  I am very touched by the generosity of the Statesman article by Tim Eaton (and AP photo by dear friend Harry Cabluck) and the kind comments about it from so many friends and associates. I noted that this piece will save some Statesman reporter the task of doing an obit at some future date; they simply can put a different headline on it.

 I will indeed relinquish corporate duties on that date, but do not plan to shut down the brain. I will continue to counsel some Cohn & Wolfe clients and work with a few other select clients of my own.

I  intend to continue to post stories on this blog and work with contributors who have similar stories to tell. I also hope to get around to writing a book of my various career adventures as I have been urged to do by many friends.

Stay tuned. Every day is a new day!

–Julian Read

All of us who knew him or have been touched by the good cheer and good deeds of Lowell Lebermann are saddened by his unexpected passing yesterday.  Today’s Austin American-Statesman chronicled highlights of his lifetime achievements and public service. It also noted briefly an early, unsuccessful political campaign for State Representative in 1964.

That brought back a smile from personal memories of how Howard Rose and Larry Temple of Governor John B. Connally’s office and a young Speaker of the House Ben Barnes got me involved in that campaign.  They were all impressed with Lowell as a bright young student at UT with political ambitions, so our firm did the advertising and publicity for his race, with quiet support from Austin politicos. But alas, the voters of Norrtheast Texas  failed to grasp the level of talent offered.

Nonplussed  by the loss, Lowell went on to become a successful businessman and became widely admired for his distinguished record of public service as a member of the Austin City Council and the University of Texas Board of Regents, as well as his generosity toward community endeavors. And anytime our conversations would get around to that rare early-day setback, I will always remember fondly his infectous laugh while declaring “that was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Footnote: My late wife Anice Barber Read, who founded and directed the Texas Main Street Program for the Texas Historical Commission, was responsible for preservation and restoration of the historic Christiansen-Lebermann Photography Studio west of the Capitol in Austin. And Lowell and his late mother Sue Lebermann were honored guests on occasion of its debut as the Texas Main Street Center, now named after Anice Read.

–Julian Read

The Wall Street Journal gave front page prominence a few days ago to a major article about the mushrooming volume and cost of taxpayer-paid junkets by members of Congress and their fellow travelers.  It reports that spending on overseas travel has nearly tripled since 2001, and that the 2008 tab of $13 million represents  a 50 percent jump since  Democrats took control of Congress two years ago. This follows a flap back then when some critics claimed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had asked for a 200-seat government aircraft to ferry her entourage between California and Washington, while she responded that she only wanted one that could fly that distance non-stop–regardless its size.

All of which brings to mind a comparative, if trivial, smiler of a story told here in Texas years forty years ago. Back in those days, when President Lyndon B. Johnson was in office, along with Austin Congressman Jake Pickle, old Braniff  Airways ran a daily “Jake Pickle Special” non-stop flight  between Washington, D.C. and Austin, and on to San Antonio.

 A  frequent flyer on that plane was longtime Bexar County Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, the popular voice of hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans. Rep. Gonzalez always sat in Seat 1A in the first class section. The story goes that a reporter, taking note of that non-egalitarian practice, one day asked the Congressman how he, as  champion of the little man, could justify the cost of sitting in first class. And without hesitation and with a straight face, Gonzalez is said to have replied: “I want to make sure there are plenty of seats back there for my people.”  The Congressman went to his grave as a hallowed figure with the Convention Center on the Hemisfair grounds named in his honor. And today,  son Representative Charles Gonzalez proudly carries on his legacy of public service as a member of Congress. But we haven’t ask whether  he flies first class.

–Julian Read