Re­mem­ber­ing Vic­tor Gold

A force of na­ture, he was pas­sion­ate about life, friends and foot­ball

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By David A. Keene David A. Keene is edi­tor at large at The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Vic­tor Gold died qui­etly last week. His pass­ing was both un­ex­pected and un­char­ac­ter­is­tic for in his 88 years no one who knew him or en­coun­tered him would have ex­pected him to do any­thing qui­etly. Vic was one of a kind; to say that he was pas­sion­ate about life, his be­liefs, foot­ball; his friends and life in gen­eral hardly be­gins to de­scribe the man.

Vic Gold was a force of na­ture. He be­gan his po­lit­i­cal life as an Alabama young Demo­crat who mor­phed into an un­re­con­structed con­ser­va­tive who served as Barry Gold­wa­ter’s deputy press sec­re­tary in 1964, wrote for Na­tional Re­view, es­tab­lished a suc­cess­ful pub­lic re­la­tions con­sul­tancy, signed on as press sec­re­tary to Vice Pres­i­dent Spiro Agnew dur­ing the Nixon years and es­chewed pol­i­tics af­ter Agnew’s fall. He wrote books and toiled as a writer for Wash­ing­to­nian mag­a­zine un­til lured back into pol­i­tics to help Ge­orge H.W. Bush in his quest for the White House.

His re­la­tion­ships with politi­cians who em­ployed him from time to time, the jour­nal­ists with whom he worked and all who knew him was fiery. As the Gold­wa­ter cam­paign wound down, the press corps pre­sented Mr. Gold with a strait­jacket in com­mem­o­ra­tion of his de­vo­tion to his can­di­date and no-holds-barred de­fense of his can­di­date. He once an­nounced as Gold­wa­ter’s cam­paign plane pre­pared to land that the plane would be land­ing in 20 min­utes af­ter the re­porters on board had left through the rear door of the air­craft in 10.

We worked to­gether for Vice Pres­i­dent Agnew and when Vic got ex­as­per­ated by his boss he would an­nounce loudly that he had had enough and was quit­ting. His of­fice in the Old Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing was unique in that while ev­ery­one else on the staff ac­cepted the gov­ern­ment is­sued faux colo­nial of­fice fur­ni­ture, Vic moved in his own Six­ties PR firm fur­ni­ture and when he got re­ally mad would an­nounce to all and sundry that he was call­ing a mov­ing com­pany to move it out.

One of my jobs was to con­vince the vice pres­i­dent that Vic was too valu­able to let go, and to con­vince the vice pres­i­dent of the United States that there was only one way to quiet the storm; he would have to go down to Vic’s of­fice, ad­mit that he was right about what­ever it was that re­sulted in the lat­est blow-up and, well, apol­o­gize. Agnew would in­vari­ably ob­ject on the grounds that he was the vice pres­i­dent and that Vic worked for him rather than he for Vic, but in the end, he would do what he had to do to calm things down. He did it be­cause he knew and loved him and be­cause Vic was much too valu­able to lose.

A decade later when he came out of po­lit­i­cal re­tire­ment to help Ge­orge Bush in his quest for the pres­i­dency Vic was a fiery as ever and Mr. Bush like Mr. Agnew learned that Vic’s pass­ing had to be man­aged rather than re­sisted. They be­came close per­sonal as well as po­lit­i­cal friends once he re­al­ized that Vic Gold held noth­ing back, was a truth-teller and an in­valu­able friend. All who knew him shared that as­sess­ment, val­ued his friend­ship and craved the hon­est ad­vice and coun­sel that came with it.

Vic Gold loved and was devoted to pol­i­tics and to his friends, but wor­shipped Alabama’s leg­endary Bear Bryant and shared the coach’s in­sis­tence that those with whom he worked give their all to the chal­lenges they faced. If Bryant served as a role model for Vic, Vic him­self was a pretty good role model for those with whom he worked. He was not just fiery and ded­i­cated, he was smart, witty and only a fool would ig­nore his ad­vice.

Some years ago, Vic was rac­ing be­tween Alabama and Louisiana foot­ball games when he was in­volved in a near fa­tal ac­ci­dent ca­reen­ing through ru­ral Mis­sis­sippi. He was taken un­con­scious to a Mis­sis­sippi hospi­tal where upon wak­ing and won­der­ing just where he was, he looked up to dis­cover that he was in the Nathan Bed­ford For­rest Memo­rial Hospi­tal.

His first thought he told me later was that he’s died and gone to Hell. This time af­ter pass­ing qui­etly in the night those who knew and loved him can be cer­tain that he’s in a far bet­ter place to­day.

Vic Gold loved and was devoted to pol­i­tics and to his friends, but wor­shipped Alabama’s leg­endary Bear Bryant and shared the coach’s in­sis­tence that those with whom he worked give their all to the chal­lenges they faced.

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