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In Parker and Carpenter, UT Loses Two Iconic Texas Exes

The weekend was a sad one for the Exes, who lost a pair of classic Texas icons in Liz Carpenter and Fess Parker.

Carpenter, BJ ’42, was a pioneering female newspaper reporter who became Lady Bird Johnson’s White House press secretary, then an author and humorist. 

And Parker, BA ’50, became famous for playing pioneers — notably Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett — on TV and film.

Carpenter always had the right words for the occasion. She was in Dallas on the day JFK was assassinated, and wrote the 58-word speech LBJ gave upon returning to Washington: simple, terse, and just right. Decades later, she wrote a reflection on aging for Texas Monthly that was honest, eloquent, and once again fitting. 

“You can keep your zest until the day you die,” she wrote. “If I may offer a simple maxim, ‘Be interested.’ Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested. My young friends and their causes keep me from being surrounded by my peers. Age must not trap you in a one-dimensional world.”

Parker, ever full of stories, told a few to The Alcalde in a story called “Playing the Hero” a few years back.

He was candid about the frustrations of old age. “The interesting thing about closing in on 80 is the diminishing horizons,” he said. “It is really aggravating, among other emotions, to look at your horizons and say, ‘You know, I’d like to do that, but maybe I shouldn’t.'”

Even as they aged, both of these Texas Exes honored their UT roots decades after graduating.

Carpenter established a distinguished lecture series that brought notables like Hillary Clinton to campus to speak.

Parker donated to help build the original Alumni Center, and its courtyard was named for his father, Fess Parker Sr. Later, after the courtyard was enclosed, the deck overlooking Waller Creek was named the Fess Parker Deck.

Next time you enjoy lunch there, in one of the loveliest little spots on campus, think of these two grads who loved their alma mater and lived with grace.

 
 
 

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