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Bob Lonsberry

Congresswoman's Husband Dies at 82

 

Bob Slaughter was a gentleman, and he loved his wife.

For all his accomplishments, for all his friends, that’s the best you can say.

About him or any man.

He was a gentleman, and he loved his wife.

Mr. Slaughter was 82. He died in Washington yesterday with his bride of 57 years at his side. He was a principled, intelligent man of grace and good cheer.

His wife, Louise Slaughter, is a pioneering and longtime member of the House of Representatives. Her service was a partnership enabled by his love of her and their shared political values.

Both highly educated, they met in Texas when he was a young lawyer and she was a travelling chemical rep. They ended up in Rochester pursuing his legal career, which took him eventually to the executive suites of the Eastman Kodak Company.

Along the way, they each became politically involved in advancing their progressive beliefs, dedicating their talents and time to causes they considered important.

She rose to prominence and was elected to office. First the county legislature, then the state Assembly, then on to Congress where ultimately she chaired the House Rules Committee – which she now serves as ranking minority member.

And for a generation, Mr. Slaughter was quietly by her side. Driving back and forth to Washington, at affairs of state and family, with the president and with the neighbors. Not in her shadow, and not left at home, but helping, encouraging and loving. He was neither eclipsed by her success, nor jealous of it. He didn’t scheme and manipulate, he wasn’t a backdoor access broker parleying his connections to his wife and her colleagues. He didn’t wrangle jobs and contracts for himself, he didn’t distract or exploit. His name was never in the headlines.

He was a gentleman. A regular guy from an earlier day when a good man had honor, poise and social grace.

And when a good man defended his wife. The only time anyone saw Bob Slaughter's ire was when they attacked the woman he loved. It was an experience they didn't forget or tend to repeat.

He seemed to all who knew him to be a well-adjusted, comfortable man completely tickled by his wife’s success and commitment. He was proud of her, but it was not a boastful or inappropriate pride. It was more a simple glee at his sweetheart’s accomplishment and service.

Among Mr. Slaughter’s professional and community associates, there were a great many who did not share the political leanings of himself or his wife. Yet none of them, to my hearing, ever had an unpleasant word to say about him. Rather, I have never heard him described as anything other than kind and gracious, friendly and thoughtful.

Even those who grew red-faced at his wife’s various political efforts seemed happily at peace when they talked about “Bob.”

At Kodak, his dealings with the humblest of employees were always courteous and respectful. He was a friend to all he met.

He was also a loving father and grandfather.

And probably history should note that his public life was largely off the radar, discernible not so much for what he did, but what his wife did. To learn more about him, you must study her. She got where she got on her own ability, but he stood by her side and was in every way her partner. If she redefined the potential of women in politics in Western New York and Washington, D.C., it was a vision understood and supported first in their home between the two of them.

Louise Slaughter has secured her significant place in the history of her region and our country. An understanding of that history would be incomplete without an understanding of the great role played by her husband.

He died yesterday with her by his side.

He was 82.

Bob Slaughter was a gentleman, and he loved his wife.

Pray God all of us could live up to that noble standard.

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