Tags: Obit | Dickey

Remembering Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey

Image: Remembering Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey
Rep. Jay Dickey (AP)

By    |   Monday, 01 May 2017 09:45 AM

Upon learning April 20 that former four-term Rep. Jay Dickey, R.-Ark., had died at 77, my mind immediately dashed back 20 years to the summer of 1997.

Roaming between the House offices and the U.S. Capitol, I had been tipped off there would be a secret meeting of Republican lawmakers to vent about House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics troubles and his abandonment of conservative ideals in dealing with the Clinton White House.

A coup was in the works against the Speaker.

No one would say any more. And then I ran into Jay Dickey.

"Yeah, there's a meeting tonight," he told me, "and let me give you the room number."

He proceeded to tell where the coup-plotters were huddling and who some of them were.

"And this is off the record … off the record!" he said in his familiar Arkansas drawl, grinning and winking at me.

Catching startled House members as they left the meeting, I was able to get a few to confirm talk of a coup against Gingrich was in the air. Rep. Linda Smith, R-Wash., even took me to dinner and vividly recreated the conclave of the dissenters.

I had a big story—thanks to Jay Dickey, who would greet me for years by saying "Off the record!" (The coup fizzled and some of its supporters were punished by the speaker, who stepped down on his own in 1998).

A graduate of the University of Arkansas and its law school, the young Dickey built his own law practice and served as city attorney of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, from 1968-70. He also launched successful Taco Bell and Baskin Robbins franchises.

In 1992, after what Dickey himself freely admitted were freakish circumstances, he became the first Republican ever to serve in Congress from the Razorback State's 4th District (Western Arkansas).

That year, seven-term Rep. Beryl Anthony came under attack from gun owners groups for the anti-second amendment votes he cast. Anthony lost a rancorous Democratic primary to Secretary of State Bill McCuen.

But in the fall election, McCuen was embarrassed by a string of scandals regarding his office. First-time candidate Dickey won with 52 percent of the vote—all the more impressive when one considers that the Democrats swept everything else on a ticket headed by favorite son and then-Gov. Bill Clinton as he won his first term as president.

In Congress, Dickey was clearly more conservative than his district. He sponsored the Dickey Amendment (1996) to block funds from the Centers for Disease Control to be used for mental health research that might promote gun control, and the Dickey Wicker Amendment (1995-96) to ban federal funding on research that involved the destruction of a human embryo.

But his constituency service and folksy persona helped him overcome determined Democratic challenges in three subsequent elections.

"I knew Jay since I was a little girl and he and my father campaigned together," Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House deputy press secretary and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, told Newsmax. "He loved to campaign and was just full of love for what he did and for his constituents. And he loved his dog."

Sanders was referring to Dickey's dog, Romy. While in Hampton, Ark., the congressman left Romy in his SUV. The dog slipped the vehicle into gear and rammed it into a local radio station. The story made major news and gave master story-teller Dickey a yarn to tell audiences. At press conferences, he was repeatedly asked about any further adventures by Romy.

After voting for Bill Clinton's impeachment, Dickey's days were numbered. Following his Clinton’s acquittal by the Senate, an angry President helped directed massive resources into the 4th District to defeat the Republican congressman. It worked, as Democrat (and future Arkansas Governor) Mike Ross unseated Dickey.

As a private attorney, Dickey kept in touch with friends and former colleagues. He corresponded with disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R.-Calif., who had been sentenced to prison for eight years for corrupt practices in office. When I expressed my disappointment with Cunningham because "he said he was a Christian," Dickey quickly responded: "He is a Christian. God decides that, not us."

That was Jay Dickey: a true friend to all. And that’s on the record.

© 2017 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 
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Upon learning April 20 that former four-term Rep. Jay Dickey, R.-Ark., had died at 77, my mind immediately dashed back 20 years to the summer of 1997. Roaming between the House offices and the U.S. Capitol, I had been tipped off there would be a secret meeting of Republican...
Obit, Dickey
704
2017-45-01
Monday, 01 May 2017 09:45 AM
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