(April 28) I have written several times in the past about the political volunteer work of my father, Haywood H. Hillyer III, a onetime Republican national committeeman who died 10 years ago today. I’ve avoided the usual encomiums to the sorts of things that mark father-son relationships, thinking them irrelevant for national publications.

But, 10 years later, the passage of time crystallizes some memories in a way that may be of interest. I’m not exactly sure, as I write this, where this little essay is going, but please bear with me.

Dad was a builder of the Republican Party and the conservative movement and a congressional district chairman for Ronald Reagan; he was a lawyer who served in key positions for several Bar associations; he was a champion regional sailor; he was a great aficionado of traditional New Orleans jazz known and appreciated by many of those musicians, black and white; an expert Cajun dancer; and a quiet, thoughtful, even-tempered man, with the exception of when his competitive nature suddenly erupted (rather humorously, not frighteningly) in sailing races or bridge (cards) matches in which he just couldn’t understand why some people’s minds didn’t work at the warp speed of his own.

He was not a big man, just 5 feet and 8 3/4 inches (he really wanted that extra quarter inch), but he had a quietly fierce courage of his convictions and rigorous ethical code that drew praise from a governor and a Republican state chairman, among others. He empathized with people down on their luck and donated valuable professional services for hundreds of hours to people who couldn’t afford to pay.

But as a father, what stands out in my mind is our shared love of sports. When I failed miserably as a 7-year-old in Little League baseball, he said it didn’t matter. But when I insisted I wanted to get better, he collected about a hundred dead tennis balls, took me to an intramural diamond on the nearby Tulane University campus, and pitched batting practice to me until his arm seemed about to fall off….

[The full column is here.] 


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