It's a powerful thing to see grown men fight back tears and so it was at River Oaks Country Club on Wednesday when former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Neil Bush went weepy as they praised George H.W. Bush. The former president, in abstentia, and Baker were honorees at the annual Men of Distinction luncheon, where affection for Bush 41 was unbridled. Even in his absence, Bush received standing ovations.
"He is my friend. He is my really good friend. And in fact he is a friend to us all and we all owe him a huge debt for his service to our country that he loves so much," Baker said, focusing his remarks on Bush rather than on himself even in light of his own honor. "History is going to be very generous to 41."
The luncheon, chaired by Paul Somerville, raised $300,000 with those proceeds divided between Dr. Brendan Lee of Baylor College of Medicine and Dr. Laurence Cooper of M.D. Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital. Berdon Lawrence matched dollars presented to Lee, making for a tidy sum for his research.
Unlike most charity luncheons, attendance at this event is heavy on the suits with good representation from the steering committee that included Harry Mach, Steve Mach, Philip Bahr, Michael Mithoff, Tony Gracely, John Eads, Pat Burk, Ed McMahon and Men of Distinction president David Wuthrich. And the ladies on the committee — Leslie Bennett and Lisa Kennedy.
The heavy-hitter crowd included Harry Reasoner, Cora Sue Mach, June and Virgil Waggoner, Maria Bush, Susan Baker, Mark Hanson, John Daugherty, Bill Barnett, Dan Tutcher, Christopher Sarofim, John Havens, Jan Duncan, Pierce Bush and Matt Johnson. Channel 13 KTRK news anchor Tom Koch reprised his role as luncheon emcee, introducing the honorees.