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Remembering Harry McPherson

I always felt that having lunch with Harry McPherson was like having the History Channel to myself for two hours. He was one of those rare men who was not only filled with great stories he was eager to share, but who was equally curious to hear yours. Harry died this week at 83. He was one of the last of Washington’s wise men, a counselor to President Lyndon Johnson and a Democratic partisan but always civil, even courtly.

We had initially known each other through government and politics, because everyone in government and politics knew Harry, but we did not know each other particularly well. Then one day, when the Washington Post happened to have written a very flattering profile of Share Our Strength, I was browsing in Chapters bookstore on K Street at lunch time when Harry walked by, somehow saw me from the sidewalk, rapped on the window, and gave me the thumbs up sign.

When I got back to my office there was a message waiting for me from Harry saying that he’d love to have lunch some time. We did and continued doing so more than 20 years. He was fascinated by our model of creating community wealth, deeply interested in our work in Ethiopia where his law firm had been involved in settling some border disputes, and full of ideas about useful introductions he could make, which he did.

Harry was as animated in talking about the novels of Trollope (“You simply must read The Way We Live Now”, he insisted) and architecture and poetry as he was about civil rights, history and politics. He was one of a kind, and with 25 years on me, a wonderful mentor. I miss him already.

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