A memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church for former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, who died Jan.1 at 90.
Speakers include former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Sen. David Pryor and Arkansas Times columnist Ernest Dumas, who covered Arkansas politics for the Arkansas Gazette when the men rose to political prominence.
I thought: In January 1974, Bill Clinton was preparing to make a strong challenge of incumbent U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt for his Third District congressional seat; then-Gov. Dale Bumpers was embarking on his successful challenge to U.S. Sen. J William Fulbright, and David Pryor was months away from winning the Democratic primary race for Arkansas governor. And Ernest Dumas was covering them all for the Arkansas Gazette.
What stories they all could, did and do tell. Footnote: All three of the titans — Bumpers, Pryor, Clinton — defeated a former political giant, Orval Faubus, in Democratic gubernatorial primaries — in 1970, 1974 and 1986, respectively.
Today’s assembly of speakers reminds me of a long-ago Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner for the Arkansas Democratic Party at Woody’s Sherwood Forest. The keynote speaker was U.S. Sen. Chuck Robb of Virginia. He was preceded by “brief” remarks by Bumpers, Pryor and Clinton. In this friendly setting, all sparkled as usual. When Robb arose, he remarked that he probably should throw his speech away and sit down. He didn’t follow his sound advice.
I won’t be around 40 years from now to talk about the giants Boozman, Hutchinson and Cotton.