Weekly Hammer: A Tribute to Our Congressman Howard Coble
Some people could argue with BuzzFeed about its decision to name 6th District Congressman Howard Coble one of the sexiest bachelors in Congress, but no one can argue that Coble is the most beloved congressman in North Carolina.
At least no one who saw the tribute to Coble that the Guilford County Republican Party held for him on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the High Point Country Club.
Who else could get Gov. Pat McCrory, Sen. Richard Burr, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, Congressman Pat McHenry, Congressman Mark Meadows, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis, President Pro Tem of the NC Senate Phil Berger, plus more state representatives and state senators than you could shake a stick at, along with county commissioners and city councilmembers, all together in High Point on a Saturday night? The man behind the scenes who put the evening together was Paul Norcross, the chairman of the High Point Republican Party. Norcross had a lot of help, but he was the instigator of the event.
Lt. Gov. Forest, resplendent in a madras sport coat in honor of Coble, who had on his own madras sport coat on, did a great job as master of ceremonies. It’s not easy when you have all these highfalutin political types speaking. But the only speaker that he really had trouble with going over time was a representative from the Farm Bureau in Davidson County. In Davidson County the pace is a little slower and the description of livestock more important.
Guilford County Republican Party Chairman Michael Picarelli got the evening off to a good start by trying to introduce the dignitaries without a list, and left out a few including Gov. McCrory. But he did introduce Oak Ridge Town Councilmember George McClellan. It proved to be a good start to a fun evening.
Forest did a great job of keeping things moving, but even he forgot a name before the night was over. Forest, as lieutenant governor, is president of the state Senate. He looked straight at Berger, the president pro tem of the state Senate – someone he works with regularly – and drew a blank.
McCrory had some pretty nice comments about Coble, and he ended with, “We love you.” Which is not something you hear governors say to congressmen very often. At least not around here.
Sen. Burr who served with Coble in the House before being elected to the Senate, said, “Thank God for Howard Coble” and noted that Coble wrote the book on constituent services.
Rep. Foxx said that when she was first elected to Congress, Coble described her to his colleagues as “a feisty mountain woman from the Blue Ridge who goes bear hunting with a switch.”
She noted that Coble was “the dean of the delegation.”
Rep. Walter Jones, who spoke via video, noted that Coble was known as “the leadah” of the North Carolina delegation, and Jones made a point that is was not “leader” but “leadah.” It was a theme that was repeated by several speakers.
Rep. Meadows said that everyone was united in not wanting Coble to retire from Congress except for the eight Republicans who were running for his seat.
A letter from Rep. Robert Pittenger noted that Coble had served in Congress longer than many staffers on Capital Hill had been alive.
Former Congresswoman Sue Myrick sent a letter stating, “There is life after Congress, and it’s wonderful.”
Former Congressman Robin Hayes said, “Some call him leadah. Some call him dean. I call him my daddy.” He said that Coble was the kind of man “who leaves footprints on your heart.”
Forest said to Coble, “I’m glad you didn’t run for lieutenant governor because you’d still be lieutenant governor.”
North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter, who is currently running for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, represented the judiciary by offering what he said were amended comments from a number of the Republican judges on the North Carolina Supreme Court. It was great stuff, but it really doesn’t work in print. Sometimes you just have to be there.
Marshall Hurley, who was once Coble’s chief of staff, noted that Coble had cast over 8,861 roll call votes while serving under five presidents. He said that for his 10,959 days in office Coble would not receive one dollar from the congressional pension fund.
He said Coble showed people how someone could “play the game and still be a gentleman.”
Howard Coble’s brother Ray Coble read a poem that he said was written with “brotherly love.”
When Coble spoke he thanked everyone and said, “Turning down the congressional pension was not my smartest financial decision.”
Coble is famous for knowing the high school mascots for all the high schools in the 6th district. One of the questions he always asks when he meets a constituent is: Where did you go to high school? Coble said that after it was revealed that he had had dinner with Nelson Mandela on a visit to South Africa, a friend said, “I know what Howard said to Mandela: Nelson, tell me, where’d you go to high school?”
And not only did Coble speak, he sang with the blue grass band that performed in his honor, Southeast Express.
About 300 people crowded into the ballroom at the Country Club, including most of the candidates running for Coble’s seat. Sometimes even politicians in the same party can’t get along, but there was hardly a cross word said at this event.
BY John Hammer
February 13, 2014
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