As Democrats, many of us view the conservative Washington Times as a political enemy and can recount a range of emotions after a conservative friend forwards one of their articles. Today was such a day, as a former Republican Congressional aide sent me the Washington Times announcement of the death of their longtime columnist Ralph Hallow whom I was proud to call my friend.
Ralph was a former Conservative Columnist of the Year and his six-decade career included serving as the Washington Times’ chief political writer and on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards. He was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed stories from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
The Washington Times story notes that Ralph was “known for his gregarious personality, unstoppable drive and sharp sense of humor.” He also was the co-author of the humorous Presidential Follies: Famous Americans Who Would Be President, and Some Who Should Think Again.
When I think of Ralph, I think of a dapper and charming gentleman in a very ungentlemen-like sport and a sharp mind and even sharper wit who enjoyed giving and receiving good natured jabs. That can never capture who Ralph was for what I most remember him as is as the loving husband of his wife Millie, the former vice chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation, and as an adoring grandfather.
I first met Ralph and Millie at a Renaissance Weekend gathering fifteen years ago and, over the years, he would reach out from time to time for a liberal perspective and I had him on my podcast a few times. In fact, the podcast’s only award nomination came from an episode that featured both him and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
I fondly remember one occasion, Millie was holding a plane at the gate in Albuquerque to allow Ralph time to board (yes, she is that persuasive). Ralph was still going through security and Millie pleaded with me to go get him. I remember how his arms shot up like he was dancing at Studio 54 as they used the security air puffer. We then gathered his things and raced to the gate together to be welcomed by his relieved wife. Millie and Ralph thanked me and, as I put down Ralph’s luggage I looked him in the eye and said, “you realize Ralph, this would never happen with the New York Times.” He laughed and responded, “touché”.
I often think of this wry gentleman as something from another era, but why should that be the case? Ralph’s passing is a reminder that politics need not be a blood sport and that we can disagree with respect and a sense of humor. In addition, as you see Democrats toast Ralph’s distinguished life and career, it demonstrates the importance of getting out of our silos and going to events like Renaissance Weekend where we are exposed to people with different beliefs and careers.
My deepest condolences to his lovely wife Millie and his family on their loss. They remind us that yesterday we lost a great man, who just happened to be a political columnist and reporter.