February 22, 1978
ON THE DEATH OF THOMAS D. FINNEY, JR.
Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, Tom Finney's death took from us a man who helped shape the history of our time. His is not a familiar name to most Americans. But it is to most of us.
It is an irony of history that most events seem shaped by one person, or a small group of men and women. Those of us who serve here understand how inaccurate that can be.
And it is people like Tom Finney who prove that public recognition is not the same as public service.
Tom could have had a successful political career in his native Oklahoma — all of us who knew him have no doubt of that. Yet he did not seem particularly interested in that sort of service. And many of us were thankful that he was not, because it left him free to think, say, and act as he wished.
We who knew him could sense that. We knew his thoughts would be unencumbered by a desire for power or personal advancement. He was free to turn his sharp wit on whomever he chose. And he was free to bring his incisive intellect to bear on whatever interested him. It was the country's good fortune that his restless mind sought satisfaction in Government and politics, as well as in a staggering variety of other subjects.
I was one who sought his advice. I found him a superb adviser, who had an unmatched ability to put questions in focus. He could not only go to the heart of a matter, but he could lay out the arguments on both sides in a way which did not guide you to a conclusion, but let you find your own way.
He was an entertaining man, a successful and independent man, and a man who earned the trust and admiration of all who knew him. His life was too short if measured by his years, but he lived it fully and enthusiastically.
His death was a personal loss, and I know many of my colleagues will miss him as I will.
Mr. President, I would like to share with my colleagues the remarks of three of Tom's friends at his funeral service in the National Cathedral on February 2. I ask unanimous consent that the eulogies given by his law partner, Clark Clifford; by Senator ADLAI STEVENSON, who knew and admired him as I did; and by a friend and colleague, W. DeVier Pierson, be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
MEMORIAL SERVICES FOR THOMAS FINNEY
(By Senator ADLAI E. STEVENSON)
Tom Finney required little of life for himself. He claimed little of the influence that was his in Washington. He aided just causes; often they were forlorn. He aided friends in need.
My memories of Tom span many candidates and causes, two generations of grateful Stevensons and the many meetings — at which Tom would listen. And then by some magic we, his friends, would listen as he put things right with a few well chosen words and much good humor. We loved this man and needed him.
A passage from Micah was read at my father's services which Tom, like his father and mine, understood. It is a lesson for us all:
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?
Micah 6: 6-3.
REMARKS OF CLARK CLIFFORD
Thomas Dunn Finney, Jr. was born January 20, 1925. He died January 30, 1978.
Out of these 53 years, I had the rare privilege of a close, intimate relationship for the last 15 of those years. We gather together to celebrate the life of this good man.
One of the oldest adages of the law is that taking a law partner is very much like taking a wife. You take him for richer or poorer — in sickness and in health — forsaking all others, and until death us do part.
Ours was a most successful marriage. What a delight this man has been. A keen, searching intellect, a trained, finely honed legal mind, an ethical standard of the highest integrity, and an ever present exquisite sense of humor that lubricated not only his revered wheels of justice, but the myriad personal relationships he developed and maintained.
His humor had a graceful and sensitive and an elusive quality. It was never forced. It flowed gently and subtly. You found yourself enjoying it immensely, as you marveled at its relevance and timeliness. Amusing illustrations to prove an important point. A graceful riposte that delicately brought an adversary back to the realm of realism.
It was such an important element in Tom's makeup that you cannot think of him without feeling a warm, affectionate smile come on your face. Milnes once said:
"The sense of humour is the just balance of all the faculties of man, the best security against the pride of knowledge and the conceits of the imagination, the strongest inducement to submit with a wise and pious patience to the vicissitudes of human existence."
Tom Finney was a rare human being. He had my respect, my admiration and my affection. It is my considered opinion that if a person knew Tom Finney well, that person would unquestionably believe in immortality.
The human mind will not accept the concept that this bright, joyful, understanding and blithe spirit could ever die. Possibly it might be transferred to some other realm where it would continue to delight and provoke, but to be snuffed out like a candle — never!
No inducement on earth can persuade me that I will not see Tom Finney again. I confidently expect that when I arrive there, he will be running the place and I assume I will be kept in purgatory for a suitable period because he happens to know that once in my life I voted for a Republican.
Emily Dickinson would have understood what I am saying:
"Afraid? Of whom am I afraid?
Not death: for who is he?
the porter of my father's lodge As much abasheth me.
"Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves and Immortality."
Another uncommon quality of this man was his courage. Courage to fight this obscene foe who this last year attempted to bring him to his knees. He fought it with his mind, his force of intellect, his indomitable will, his physical strength and with the loving support of his family and his innumerable friends.
He fought it on the beaches, on the roof tops, in the streets — he never gave up. Another shining star was added to the luster of the man. He displayed the kind of spirit and faith that moves mountains.
Henley was writing of this kind of courage when he said:
"It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am master of my fate;
I am captain of my soul."
And through it all, that precious wife of his, Sally, stood taller each passing month. Kind and considerate, supportive and solicitous, forever softening the onslaughts of this evil that sought to possess him.
A line or two from the 31st Chapter of Proverbs characterizes her so well:
"She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life
She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands
She riseth also while it is yet night and giveth meat to her household
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good;
her candle goeth not out by night
She reacheth forth her hands to the needy."
May God's grace be upon her and may she have peace.
As we extend the depth of our sympathy to Sally and to Tom's mother and to his children and to all of you who feel this pervasive sense of loss, be reminded of the Scottish prayer:
"Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind, spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies."
And, as we say a temporary farewell to Tom, the poet helps us:
"Night with her train of stars and the great gift of sleep.
So be my passing!
My task accomplished and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing."
And last of all:
"To all at length an end!
All sailors to some unseen harbour float.
Farewell, mysterious, happy twilight boat.
Farewell, my friend!"
REMARKS OF W. DEVIER PIERSON
More than 200 years ago Henry Fielding told us that it is not death. but dying, which is terrible. This simple truth has never been more evident than to Tom Finney's many friends as we have seen his ordeal of the past two years. While it is fitting that a portion of these services have been devoted to this searing experience and its effect on Tom's family, we must now begin the difficult process of turning our attention from the cruelty of Tom's death to the beauty and inspiration of his life.
To this end — as a surrogate for all of Tom's friends — I want to talk about Tom as we knew him and what he has meant to our own lives.
Tom's roots were in Oklahoma and he could have enjoyed a distinguished professional and public career in his native state. But, like a number of fellow Oklahomans, Tom chose a Washington career and came here just over twenty years ago as the principal assistant to Senator Mike Monroney. He became the leader and most distinguished alumnus of a local institution we Oklahomans affectionately refer to as the Monroney School of Public Administration.
Almost from the time of his arrival in Washington, Tom was sought out by great public men of our time — the Adlai Stevensons, father and son, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gene McCarthy, Ed Muskie, Walter Mondale and many others. I now understand why such men constantly turned to Tom. Tom always worked for the success of the enterprise. He sought a victory of men and ideals. He was not self-serving. He did not lust for individual influence, personal power or public recognition. He was, therefore, correctly perceived by these public men — including two of our Presidents — as a wise and dispassionate counselor who could be counted on for reasoned, detached and reliable advice.
Selfless participation in politics is a rare commodity and the friendship that continued between these men and Tom long after the campaigns had run their course or the project had ended is the best evidence that they — like the rest of us — knew that Tom was unique.
I hope I can describe — with a clarity and precision that Tom would find acceptable — the kind of relationship that he had with his friends. Tom was our leader. He dominated by the force of his native intellect, knowledge and gift of expression. He knew when to speak and when to listen. He could state a case, dissect a problem and summarize competing views. He was constant, strong and steady. Because he was willing to apply these skills to the interests and problems of his friends, he had a profound influence on each of us.
Tom was also formidable because he knew so much about so much. He understood and could discuss foreign affairs, international economics, social issues, domestic politics, literature, sociology, psychology — and almost anything else.
He was a connoisseur of books, photography, music, art, wines, antiques, rugs, coins, stamps, pipes and semi-precious stones. These were not simply objects to be collected. They were subjects to be mastered — and he did so. Tom was a contemporary renaissance man.
He was also human — and with human frailties. He did not lack ego. He was a perfectionist and not unduly tolerant of the limitations of others. He was always impatient and sometimes irascible. His tongue was sharp and he did not — to put it mildly — suffer fools gladly. But he was not malicious. Tom simply did not understand why everyone was not as well-ordered and informed as he was.
Most of all, Tom was a good and true friend. He cared. He was always ready to help — to advise — to comfort. You were as good a friend outside his presence as within it. He shared in the happiness of his friends. He hurt when we hurt.
Tom brought out the best in people and made each of us better than we really were. In my own experience, I know that all of my successes have been shared with Tom. In my most troubled hours, he was always there.
Because Tom has meant so much to us and our feeling of loss is so deep, there is a temptation to feel cheated — to be bitter about the unfairness of his life being cut so short. But Tom himself provided the best reason not to do so. One day I was discussing with him a long-time public official and Tom said the man was not qualified. I asked why he felt that way and pointed out that this man had 30 years experience. "No," said Tom, "he hasn't had 30 years experience, he has had one year's experience 30 times."
This difference between mechanical longevity and the quality of a life is Tom's legacy to us. Although it spanned just 53 years, Tom's life was long and full because he made it that way. He achieved more in his lifetime than most men ever do. There were no vacant periods. Each year counted. Each year was full of excitement, new interests and new experiences. Tom did not leave us before he had made his mark.
As we gather here in respect and sorrow, painfully conscious of our own mortality, this lesson — that each year of our life should be lived to its fullest and its highest potential — provides the only real clue as to any meaning in Tom's death. I hope it gives Tom's brave and wonderful family comfort and purpose as they renew their own lives. I know that it makes the rest of us, who loved Tom and who will miss him, all the more grateful for the years we had together.