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July 16, 2008

R.I.P. Tony Snow

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Saturday former White House press secretary, Fox News commentator and well-known columnist, Tony Snow, died of cancer at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. He was but 53 years old.


In 2005 he was diagnosed and treated for colon cancer, a disease that took the life of his mother when he was 17. In March 2007 it was revealed that the cancer had returned and had spread to his liver.


A Washington Examiner tribute said it best: “Despite the pressures of his job, the difficulties of serving an increasingly unpopular wartime president, and the terrible agonies that accompanied his illness, Snow never lost his good humor, grace, or humility under fire.”


For many who had enjoyed following his career for many years, his death was as if a friend had passed away.


His animated, vibrant, and expansive energy was infectious and shown through whether you were watching him on TV, listening to him on the radio, reading his editorials or watching him play in his rock band, Beats Workin’.


He was genuine, intelligent, and real. Many appreciated his matter-of-fact, conversational, and soft-spoken style. Others marveled at his thoughtfulness, quick wit, and ability to put together the many disparate elements of arcane, complex, and difficult scenarios into an understandable explanation.


His death leaves a huge void in the ability of conservatives to spread their message.


In one of his last public appearances on April 10, he accepted the Media Research Center’s William F. Buckley, Jr., Award for Media Excellence at its 2008 gala.


In his acceptance speech, he mentioned that when the Media Research Center started “it was back in those days when conservatives… didn’t feel that we had voices, and we certainly looked with frustration on what we saw on the television screens, or heard on radio, or saw when we opened up the newspapers.”


He went on to say: “The business of exposing bias is a little bit like serving as a parole officer at a juvenile detention facility. The misdeeds seldom change, the miscreants seldom learn, but you still have to do your best to encourage good behavior. And you have to do it in such a way that you don’t lose your temper or your mind.”


He then extolled: “…we need to learn from Bill (Buckley) that life is too short for rancor… (A)s we mature, we start to see boisterous anger as nothing more than bratty exhibitionism. If we want to convert people, let’s do it the right way. Let’s make our case plainly, happily, confidently. After all, we do have truth on our side.”


Whether you agreed with Mr. Snow or not, whatever his point of view, he never seemed to alienate or annoy. As the White House press secretary from May 2006 until September 2007, he brought life to a job that had become robotic, listless, plastic, and lifeless.


Many first got to know him in 1996 when he served as the host of FOX News Sunday on the FOX Broadcasting network’s Sunday morning program, a role he kept until 2003. Others became familiar with his work early on when he was a columnist for USA Today from 1994 to 2000.


Mr. Snow worked hard to earn his nationally recognized status as a keen observer of national politics and as an excellent public policy analyst. The road to Washington and everyone’s living room began June 1, 1955, in Berea, Kentucky.


However, soon after he was born, his family moved to Cincinnati. It was there, in high school, that he first showed an interest in politics and current events; however, many fondly remember his musical talents.


According to a 2006 article by Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Baltimore’s Sun, in high school he played saxophone in a band called Dual-Headed Drew and the Perky Pistons.


In 1977, he earned a B.A. in philosophy from Davidson College, which is located in a small town by the same name, just north of Charlotte, North Carolina.


He gave his roommates at Davidson headaches, wrote Ms. Davis, “teaching himself flute by playing along with Jethro Tull albums.” In 2003 “he performed on stage with the band's frontman, Ian Anderson.”


After he graduated from Davidson, Mr. Snow “shuffled from job to job, first as a caseworker for the mentally ill in North Carolina, then as a teacher in Cincinnati and Kenya before doing graduate work in economics and philosophy at the University of Chicago,” according to Peter Baker, writing for The Washington Post.


He went to work in 1979 in Greensboro, which is just up Interstate 85 from Davidson, for The Greensboro Record as an editorialist.


That paper, now The Greensboro News and Record, is owned by Landmark Communications, which also owns the Carroll County Times, and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, where Mr. Snow worked from 1981-82, until he went to The Detroit News from 1984-87.


It was when he later worked for The Washington Times (1987-91) that he caught the eye of President George H. W. Bush. He went to work for the White House as a media affairs aide and speechwriter (1991-93).


In a recent tribute published by Davidson College, his political philosophy professor, Lance Stell, recalled an organized debate he once had with Mr. Snow in which Dr. Stell was assigned “to argue against the viability of libertarianism, and (Mr. Snow) argued for it.”


Dr. Stell observed that Mr. Snow “was passionately interested in political philosophy, and believed deeply that people's political beliefs had real meaning in the world.”


As a result, our lives have more meaning. He taught us how to live and he taught us how to die.


Rest In Peace, Tony Snow!


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:


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