Liz Carpenter Remembered With Prayers, Poems, And Jokes

One of the most loving, poignant, and downright entertaining memorial services ever held in Texas was surely this morning’s ceremony to remember the legendary Liz Carpenter, BJ ’42.

Hundreds converged on campus at the LBJ Auditorium to remember the Texas journalist, author, feminist, political player, and all-around funny woman — a peer and friend of icons like Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, and Lady Bird Johnson.

Although her friend Bill Moyers missed a flight at the last minute, Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the eulogizers, appearing by video to speak of Carpenter’s humor and heart.  

“Liz Carpenter would charge hell with a bucket of cold water,” Hillary Clinton said. “I’m not sure if Washington fully qualified as hell for her, but for the better half of a century, she took the capital by storm.”

Carpenter got her start as a newspaper reporter long before women had broken into the business. She became press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson when LBJ was in the White House. And for decades after, she endured as what she called a “political artifact,” writing books and bringing movers and shakers together for raucous dinner parties.

She died Saturday at age 89. It was fitting, friends said — Saturday was the first day of spring, and her code name in the White House had been Springtime. Like Lady Bird, she loved wildflowers, and this year is one of the great years for them in Texas.

Family and friends remembered her with stories both tender and downright hilarious. It was just the kind of service she’d written that she wanted in her book, Getting Better All the Time.

If all her friends had died, she wrote, “hold it in a phone booth.”

No worries there. “Liz would be so relieved that there are still so many Democrats in Texas!” her granddaughter Bonnie Bazzell exclaimed, looking out at the crowd.

Friends like former LBJ Library director Harry Middleton had everyone laughing as he told stories. “She told friends to come to Salado to scatter her ashes — but to keep their mouths closed,” he said.

She was scared to fly, as Middleton and others remembered, and in her widowed years, cleverly sought out the nicest-looking older gentleman boarding the plane to ask if she could onto him for support.

Once during a bumpy flight, Middleton said, she so gouged, squeezed, and pummeled the arm of the man next to her that afterward, the man said, “Lady, I don’t know who you are, and you don’t know who I am, but if we go much further than this, we’re going to have to get married.”

“All who were blessed with her friendship,” Middleton said, “will talk about her, think about her, and tell these stories over and over as long as we remain.”


No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment