Harry Whittington, who was shot by Dick Cheney during a 2006 hunting trip, dies : NPR
Harry Whittington, the man who former Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot while quail hunting on a Texas ranch 17 years ago, has died. He was 95 years old.
Whittington died at his home Saturday in Austin, family friend Karl Rove said Monday.
Before Whittington was thrust into the national spotlight after the accidental shooting, the attorney was long known for helping build the Texas Republican Party into the dominant political force it is today and for being the go-to guy for governors. when they needed to clean up a troubled state. agencies.
Rove, an influential Republican strategist and former adviser to former President George W. Bush, said Whittington was “a man of enormous integrity and deep compassion” who was asked by leaders for “important tasks.”
Whittington and others were hunting with Cheney at the sprawling Armstrong Ranch in south Texas on February 11, 2006, when Cheney, while targeting a bird, struck Whittington, who at the time had 78 years old. The incident was not publicly reported until the next day when the ranch owner called the local newspaper — the Corpus Christi Caller-Times — and told the paper what had happened.
Whittington was sprayed with birdshot pellets to his face, neck and chest and suffered a minor heart attack from a pellet near his heart. When he left the hospital about a week after the accident, he said that “accidents happen and will happen,” and apologized to Cheney, saying he was “very sorry for everything” Cheney and his family had to deal with. after the accident.
Cheney was criticized for breaking a cardinal rule of hunting — that someone with a gun must make sure they know what they are shooting at before pulling the trigger — and for not immediately going public with what happened.
The incident also spawned countless jokes. Jay Leno, then host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC, speculated that Cheney would be capitalizing on the incident this coming Valentine’s Day with a new cologne named “Duck.” Billionaire Bill Gates greeted his audience at a conference by saying, “I’m really glad to be here. My other invitation was to go quail hunting with Dick Cheney.”
In an interview with Fox News days after the incident, Cheney said it was “one of the worst days of my life at that moment”.
Cheney said that the incident happened after Whittington had left the hunting party to retrieve a bird dropped in the deep. Cheney said Whittington was dressed well in orange and his upper body was visible, but he was standing in a canal with the sun behind him.
“You can’t blame anybody else,” Cheney said. “I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.”
Whittington owned a downtown Austin building where many of the state’s GOP power brokers built their empires. Bush used the building for his gubernatorial campaign headquarters, as did former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Rove also had his office there.
Whittington has been a longtime player in Texas politics. In 1961, he worked on John Tower’s campaign for the US Senate and later helped a young Bush run for Congress, a race he lost. He’s also been a go-to guy for governors trying to clean up troubled state agencies and spent decades serving on state boards.
In the 1980s, Republican Governor Bill Clements appointed him to the former Texas Board of Corrections, which oversaw a state prison system that a federal judge had declared unconstitutional because of brutal conditions.
Whittington became an advocate for change in a prison system that lacked basic medical care and where people serving time were subject to beatings by other inmates. He was also an advocate for the rights of mentally disabled prisoners.
Bush, then governor of Texas, appointed him in 1999 to lead a restructured Texas Funeral Services Commission, which was involved in a whistleblower lawsuit.
Rove said Whittington not only served his community in many ways but was also “a tremendous source of good advice and mentorship to dozens,” including him. He said that Whittington was not only the landlord, but also the secretary and treasurer of his company.
“He was an extraordinary man, and that he should be remembered as the victim of some sort of hunting accident disturbs me,” said Rove.