My Kind of Republican: In Memory of My Father

Robert F. Willis (1921-1987)Robert F. Willis (May 12, 1921 – November 3. 1987)

I can still hear my father’s Rock of Ages voice confessing, “I voted for Richard Nixon for President three times, and I was wrong every time.” That was after Watergate. By the time Ronald Reagan came along, my father was a Republican in name only. He loathed Reagan and never voted for him. He could summon a liberation theologian’s righteous wrath whenever he thought about Reagan’s extra-constitutional adventures in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The last opinion I ever heard him say in the conscious world came in the cardiac intensive care unit on the day the Iran-Contra scandal broke. “Those bastards.”

My father was the kind of Republican described in John Prine’s song, Grandpa Was a Carpenter: “He voted for Eisenhower ‘cause Lincoln won the war.” He was a carpenter, too —  always level on the level — as was his grandfather and father before him, and his son and grandson after. I have no doubt what he would have thought of George W. Bush and his endless preemptive wars. I have a pretty good idea who he’d vote for tomorrow if he could.

My mother, on the other hand, was a Republican because she held Frranklin D. Roosevelt personally responsible for World War II. Nonetheless, I remember hearing her say once of her children, Democrats one and all, actively protesting the Vietnam War: “I don’t know what I did wrong. I tried to raise them to be good Christians.”

The Rock of Ages responded without equivocation: “Well, I raised them to think for themselves, to make their own decisions, and I’m proud of them.”

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2 Responses to My Kind of Republican: In Memory of My Father

  1. ms modigliani says:

    I wish I could have met this man whom you hold in the highest esteem. I’m sure he’d be voting with you this time.

  2. tomrobertstennessee says:

    My father, born in 1927, has voted democratic twice in his lifetime–first for Harry Truman and second for Barack Obama. He’ll be at the local democratic headquarters party tomorrow night with me watching the election results. He believes that this is the single most important election in his lifetime.

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