Monday, March 22, 2010

Good night, Liz

I remember once - I would guess it was about 15 or 20 years ago - I was walking north on Guadalupe Street in Austin between the state capitol and the university campus deep in conversation with Liz Carpenter, the former press secretary for Lady Bird Johnson. I can't even remember why I was having this conversation - but because of the profession I was in I was probably seeking her help in some way. But what I really remembered was how everyone who passed us walking the other way stopped to say hello to Liz. Even people walking the other way on the other side of the street would stop when they saw her, stop traffic to race across Guadalupe and pay their respects to Liz Carpenter. One of them who raced across the street that day was the president of the University of Texas himself.

I remembered that walk today when I learned Liz had died Saturday at the age of 89 after contracting pneumonia earlier in the week.

If Liz did nothing else, she would always be remembered for writing this speech delivered by President Lyndon B. Johnson when he returned to Washington, D.C., from Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963:

"This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That's all I can do. I ask for your help and God's."

I personally knew of no greater fighter for women's rights than Liz Carpenter. She was a co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus and co-chaired ERAmerica. She was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.

One of my favorite all-time quotes came from Liz Carpenter: "What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can't re-read a phone call."

Can I get an amen?

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