While having lunch Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion with more than 200 of my closest friends (I was attending the Political Animals Club meeting), a question popped into my mind.
If I could have lunch every Friday with any living Arkansan — family members excluded — which Arkansan would I choose?
Remember, it’s every week. This should not be someone whose stories would quickly grow old. This should not be someone you would not still be happy to see after a few months.
As I looked around the Grand Hall of the Governor’s Mansion at so many people I know, I suddenly spotted the person I would choose: former Sen. David Pryor.
Through the years, I have discovered that I never tire of Sen. Pryor’s stories — the political campaigns he has run, the colorful Arkansans he has met, the restaurants in which he has eaten, the many interesting events he was part of as a young newspaper editor, congressman, governor and senator.
The highlight of this year’s Arkansas Historical Association meeting in Magnolia was Pryor’s talk on the fight to prevent the Strawberry River from being dammed.
For four years, I covered Washington for the Arkansas Democrat. Due to the heated competition with the Gazette at that time, I felt it necessary each working day to actually stop by the offices of every member of the Arkansas congressional delegation — Sen. Pryor, Sen. Dale Bumpers, Rep. Bill Alexander, Rep. Tommy Robinson, Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt and Rep. Beryl Anthony Jr.
There were many days when Sen. Pryor’s secretary, Leslie, would say: “The senator heard you were out here and said to tell you to come on in.”
“Oh, I don’t need quotes for any stories right now,” I would say.
“Go on in anyway,” Leslie would respond.
Those were the best days — days that were not rushed, days when I could declare ourselves off the record and listen to the great DP stories. Occasionally, he would say during an afternoon visit: “Let’s go down to the Senate Dining Room and get an ol’ bowl of ice cream.”
If you have never eaten with a senator in the Senate Dining Room, you do not know the meaning of good service.
David Pyor can even make a heart attack funny. Literally.
He tells the story of being rushed in an ambulance from his home near DuPont Circle in Washington to the hospital following his heart attack.
“Everything in Washington is paperwork,” he says. “Even as I was in the back of that ambulance, they were asking me questions and filling out a form.”
“Do you smoke?” the ambulance attendant asked as he continued to fill out the form.
“I used to smoke, but I quit,” Sen. Pryor answered.
“When did you quit?”
“About 20 minutes ago.”
Simply shaking David Pryor’s hand and saying hello, as I did yesterday after lunch, brightens my day.
The floor is yours. If you could have lunch with any living Arkansan every Friday, which Arkansan would you choose?