Monday, December 26, 2016

"Tex McCrary", a life and a book of opinionated history, politics, relationships, and gossip

The subtitle of this rambling and entertaining book is "Wars . Women . Politics     An Adventurous Life Across The American Century".  It was published by Hamilton Books, a self-publishing company, in 2009 and written by Charles J. Kelly who became a friend of Tex in the 1990's when they were trying to draft Colin Powell to run for President.  Apparently Kelly, who is little known, thought that Tex should write his memoirs, Tex didn't want to focus on the past, and Kelly met with Tex many times to write the story himself.

Born in 1910, McCrary had a busy and active life as is detailed in the book.  It is in some ways a story of the old boy's networks that existed across the country and across borders in his era.  Born and living until his early teens in Texas, John Reagan McCrary went to Exeter and Yale and often stayed in Manhattan with the proverbial rich uncle.  He somehow early on became close friends with the much older Bernard Baruch.  Tex, nickname earned at prep school, became a journalist, a risk taking war reporter in World War II and in Korea, and between 1946 and 1951 an early days talk radio host and then pioneering television personality with his wife the model and actress(and Miss Rheingold) Jinx Falkenberg.  He was an early supporter of his former boss Dwight Eisenhower for President, and with his wife raising early funds and having the first major rally for Eisenhower at Madison Square Garden.

This part of the book, more than half, is fascinating even if not written like other history books.  An astute editor would have been helpful.  The rest of the book has Tex staying involved in politics and having contacts with major leaders, but on the periphery.  While remaining interesting, the book becomes a little bit of a "where's waldo" tale, with the writer always placing Tex in the middle of events.  It seems that he always was around them.  At 9/11 he was living in an apartment building at Battery Park in Manhattan and, when the planes hit, he at age 90 with his reporter's motivation went out on the streets to take photographs. When the first of the buildings collapsed he was blown into unconsciousness, and woke up in a hospital in New Jersey where the injured were taken across the river.

The interest in this book started with the unexpected death of my friend Paddy McCrary, Tex's older son, several months ago and a few day's before his 70th birthday.  The last time we saw him was in the town Rite Aid as we stood in line waiting for prescriptions, maybe a year ago.  We chatted with him and he seemed perfectly fine.  I have no idea what happened.

 He was my older daughter's first instructor at the area tennis academy, and went from being an acquaintance to a good friend around town. He had grown up at a house on the nearby Whitney estate.

This book is not for everyone, but it was enjoyed here.  The opinionated history was found to be refreshing even if not always agreed with.


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