Passing of An Underappreciated Man

Passing of An Underappreciated Man

R. Sargent Shriver, the only Presidential candidate from White Flint, died yesterday at Suburban Hospital. He was 95, and had Alzheimer’s Disease.  

Sargent Shriver and John F. Kennedy

Shriver was usually defined in relation to someone else (as I, regretfully, just did in the picture above): brother-in-law of JFK and Robert F. Kennedy; Vice-Presidential candidate for George McGovern; father of Maria Shriver, newswoman, author and wife of former California Gov. Arnold Swartzenegger; husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. As he gracefully bowed out of the 1976 presidential race at a downtown press conference, I was shoved against a wall by a scrambling CBS newswoman shouting to her cameraman: “Get the wife. We need her.”

This is unfortunate, for he wasn’t just a Kennedy groupie; he was a remarkable man in his own right. “It’s hard to find another American figure where the disproportion between how much he accomplished and how little he is known is so large,” his biographer, Scott Stossel, said in an interview with the Washington Post. “For 12 years, Sarge was always at the center stage, or just off center stage, of American history.” In a way, he was like an offensive lineman in football: doing the hard work so someone else could run for a touchdown.

Yale Law graduate, and partner in the downtown law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson. A pacifist who nevertheless served in the Navy because he thought it was his duty to save his country even if he disagreed with its policies, he received a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds at the bloody, but pivotal battle off the island of Guadalcanal. First director of the Peace Corps, creator of the Office of Economic Opportunity (later the federal Community Services Administration), and sometimes referred to as the “architect” of the War on Poverty.

And he was my first boss in White Flint. He lived on rolling hills in a secluded enclave known as Timberlawn, now home to hundreds of homes, but back then it was the birthplace of the Special Olympics. Edson Lane was a twisting gravel track on which I had to direct dozens of buses filled with reporters who came to the announcement of his presidential candidacy in 1975. I failed miserably, but worked my way up to National Youth Coordinator of that campaign. That campaign is little-remembered now, but it had some innovations: we built one of the first computer networks in New Hampshire, which the television networks piggy-backed on for their own coverage. That campaign ended badly, but Shriver was, as far as I know, the only major party Presidential candidate to have resided in White Flint.

The family’s statement is here. Remembrance by Colman McCarthy is here. A somewhat mean-spirited obit from the Post is here.

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *