H. L. Hunt’s Long Goodbye

Like they said, you can’t take it with you.

That last weekend in November was almost too much, even for astrol­ogers and students of the absurd. It began predictably enough—former President Nixon was too ill to testify at the Watergate cover-up trial, doctors had decided—but then strange headlines began to hop out. Popular Princess Eliz­abeth Bagaya, the foreign minister of Uganda, was dismissed by President Idid Amin after he charged that she had made love to a European in the restroom of the Orly Airport in Paris. In Philadel­phia, family pressure and the delicate political position of Vice-President desig­nate Nelson Rockefeller forced Happy Rockefeller’s 77-year-old millionaire aunt, Rachel Fitler, to call off her engagement to Michael Wilson, her 29-year-old chauffeur. In our other staid, conservative, oldline town, Harvard stu­dents were giving standing ovations to none other than Fanne Fox, the Tidal Basin Bombshell who had stripped Congressman Wilbur Mills of his doughty dignity and made of him a dirty old man.

It was a seductive, if lurid, time to be alive, and every health faddist knew that H. L. Hunt was trying. At 85 he was munching dates and doing the full lotus and aiming at a century and more. But then secretly, before only family and friends, he began to fail. And on that last Friday in November, he died in Dallas’ Baylor University Medical Center, of pneumonia and complications from cancer. The weekend was yet full of surprises. The Bears of Baylor Uni­versity, some fellow Baptists, were outscoring the Rice University football team to cap off their first conference championship in 50 years. It would have been a fitting final balm for the world’s richest Baptist and football fan.

But perhaps it is just as well Hunt was not aware of the events that tran­spired on the last day of his life. For transcending everything was the news—in a surprise announcement from Secre­tary of State Henry Kissinger—that President Ford would visit Peking in 1975. What an irony to go down to! Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, Jr., had been notoriously stingy with his money, ex­cept in one endeavor. Like a Daddy Warbucks, he had waged a long and ex­pensive crusade against communism and what he considered its influence here. Joe McCarthy and Douglas MacArthur had been his idols, Nixon a dupe for allowing Kissinger to subvert us into a rapprochement with China and Soviet Russia. Hunt’s last hope lay in Gerald Ford, whom he had recommended to Nixon as a vice-president back before 1960. Yes, it was just as well.

If the highest estimates of H. L.

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