America lost another patriot today. He was a true original. He loved his country. He was my friend. I first met Larry Lubenow at a business networking meeting about 9 years ago at Smokey Mo’s Barbeque in Round Rock. I learned he ran a PR firm called Shoebox PR. He carried his signature shoebox with him everywhere. I can’t explain why it was but we hit it off right from the start. We found ourselves sitting at the same table every week. We called it “The Old Farts Table.” You had have some grey hair to sit there. We did allow for one exception and that was for our friend Craig Bogan. We figured he’d grow into his grey hair one day.
You couldn’t help but love Larry. He always had that big smile and he was generous to a fault. We quickly realized we had a lot in common. He was an old newspaper guy and I was a former radio guy. We had many a long talk about the media. What it was and what it has become. It was during one of those conversations that I learned my friend had an important and memorable role in American History.
During the tempestuous days of the Civil Rights Era the country was face to face with the issue of race. In 1957, Gov. Faubus of Arkansas had called out the Arkansas National Guard to block black students from attending Central High School. Larry was about to interview Louis Armstrong in Grand Forks, ND. It was Larry who told Louis Armstrong about what was going on in Arkansas. Louis Armstrong all but exploded. Larry got the scoop. Although his own newspaper wanted nothing to do with the story, it hit the national wires anyway. It is a fascinating story. I invite you to Google: Louis Armstrong & Larry Lubenow and you will find the whole story. After that conversation, Larry went from being a friend to becoming one of my heroes. I greatly admired him. I’m glad I had the opportunity to tell him that.
When my book, Texas in Her Own Words was published, I hired Larry as my publicist. He helped me to execute our marketing strategy. He did a great job. As we worked on marketing the book, we became even closer friends. Larry was a huge UT Longhorn fan. Looking back, I’m not sure I ever saw him in anything that wasn’t burnt orange or had a UT logo on it. He loved his horns. We had many a discussion about who should be the quarterback on any given Saturday. He also always wore a Silver Spanish Doubloon around his neck from the shipwreck, Atocha. Larry did all the PR work for the collection of treasures. We’d meet at a local rib house and eat our share of ribs and talk baseball, politics and anything Longhorn. I’ll miss those days. We didn’t see each other a lot the last few years but it was a hoot when we did get together. It was great fun hangin’ out with “Uncle Lar.”
Ultimately, he was the supreme New York Yankees fan. Something you need to understand. I grew up in New England. I was born and raised to be a long suffering Red Sox fan. He had some pitched battles about who was going to be there in the playoffs. We would analyze each team ad nauseum. He’d always get the best of me by asking how many World Series the Yankees had won and then asked how many the Red Sox had won. I had no argument. He love jabbing me. But I equally enjoyed digging at him too. We respected each other enormously.
Another great thing about our relationship was discussing politics. Politically, we could not be farther apart than we were. I respected his point of view and he never agreed with mine. Up until a couple of years ago I couldn’t wait to verbally spar with him. I realized I was trying to move an unmovable object. After that I just jabbed at him to get his blood flowing. His health became more of an issue after that and so we just let the politics go and catch up on the Yankees & Sox situation and talk about out various health issues; his and mine.
I have to admit, I loved the man. He was always telling me, “You’re a good man Gunga Din.” My reply was always, “Stop it! Don’t be spreading that around. I’ll have to live up to it.” And we’d both laugh. He was a good man. He loved his country. I consider him a patriot and thank him for his service in Vietnam. He had a lot of loving family & friends.
I am honored to know him and blessed to be able to call him my friend. He was a class act. I’ll remember him until the day I die. Rest well my friend. Say hi to Billy Martin for me when you arrive there.