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Death of a Tobacco Tycoon

Pushing the envelope for social justice.

12:31 PM, Jan 11, 2010 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
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There wasn’t a dry eye in the house the other morning at Georgetown’s Holy Trinity Church, favored sanctuary for local left-wing Catholics, as prominent Democrats said farewell to Smith Bagley. Bagley, a Reynolds tobacco heir who, with first wife Vicki raised money for Jimmy Carter and were social fixtures of 1970s Washington, died last weekend at the age of 74.

Bill Clinton told the assembled mourners that Bagley “always found a way to give more than he took,” as Nancy Pelosi, Terry McAuliffe, Madeleine Albright, and Hillary Clinton paid tribute to the generous patron of campaign finance reform, District of Columbia voting rights, and abolition of the death penalty and the Cuban embargo. According to the Washington Post, Bagley’s daughter, Nancy Reynolds Bagley, reminded the assembled Democrats that her father “never wavered in his liberalism …. ‘Democrats are for the people,’ he told her. ‘Republicans are for Big Business and property.’”

It is not my usual custom to derive enjoyment from bereavement, or to point out that people who lead very, very comfortable lives on the proceeds from the sale of cigarettes, should probably refrain from attacks on Republicans, private enterprise, and property in a religious ceremony. However, in its respectful account, the Post furnished one further detail which, in its unique combination of hackneyed phrases, pious nonsense, and hilarious myopia, deserves to be repeated and, well, savored.

Then she looked over to his casket and said: “I hope, Dad, that I can bring as much commitment, charm and passion to advancing the cause of social justice while agitating and pushing the envelope to think outside the box like you did.”

At which point, the late Mr. Bagley sprang forth from his box, with thinking cap on, and pushed the envelope down the aisle, into immortality.

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