It is with sadness that I report to all of you the loss of a real Texas political giant, and Yellow Dog Democrat, Bob Gammage. From KXAN:
Robert Gammage, a reform-minded Texas lawmaker who was part of the renouned “Dirty Thirty” in the early 1970s and then made an ill-fated run for governor in 2006, died Monday at age 74.
Gammage, who for several years operated a law firm in Austin, represented part of Harris County in the Texas House, the state Senate and in Congress. He also was a state appeals court judge and served on the Texas Supreme for four years in the 1990s.
I'll never forget July 7, 2003 sitting in a little coffee shop in Arlington, Texas near the University of Texas campus. It was at that coffee shop that I arrived not with an intent to learn about former Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, but convince all the people in attendance why he was the best choice for the Democratic ticket against George W. Bush in 2004. It didn't take much convincing for Bob Gammage to pledge his full support toward drafting General Clark to enter the Democratic primary that season, and subsequently stumping across the country on his behalf either. It was a tireless and selfless act of patriotism–quite rare these days in politics–and something I certainly had never seen before, yet was proud to be part of. Bob didn't hesitate to hand the reins of the Clark effort over to a wet behind the ears political student with a full-time job, full-time college schedule, and a part-time political organizing gig either. When I asked him later why he entrusted so much responsibility and leadership opportunity in me he said, “You got something kid that other kids don't have in being able to work in this field, motivate people, lead and to do it all for a purpose of good! So why not you!?”
I'm not so sure a better statement represents the level of integrity that was reflective of Bob. Mr. Gammage believed in mentoring, training and empowering up-and-coming leaders in the Texas Democratic Party. In fact his biggest passion wasn't politics it was education where he enjoyed being in front of the classroom and helping shape the minds of young Texans. When I asked him one time what he thought his biggest failure in life was he said, “I'm not sure I can think of my biggest failure, but I can name my greatest failure and hands down it is Patrick Swayze!” When I asked him why Patrick Swayze he said, “because he was my student and I asked him one day why he didn't come to class, why he wasn't interested in the subject matter, and what I could do to help him to get more interested in the subject matter. Patrick told me that he was interested in acting and had a passion for it. So I told him well then– by God–go act!” Vintage Gammage advice.
He and his wife Linda opened so many doors, and blazed so many trails for so many young Texans just like me. I have no doubt in my mind that I'm a better man because I was blessed to be mentored by one of the “dirty 30 bastards!”