I never knew a man quite like him.
I met him in 1981 while panhandling for some political cause or another. Back then, he kept a ledger of his political donations on 5-by-7 cards. You'd make your pitch. He'd open the file and examine his giving to you. He'd then give you his answer. His answer was as crisp as each of these sentences.
To not know Harold was to be intimidated by his curt responses. On one visit, after a Shakespearean presentation by this writer, Harold looked down at his (my) file, then looked up at me and snapped in his adopted Texas slang, "No, I gave you (x dollars) in January. That's all you're worth to me."
Another time, a colleague traveled 1,300 miles just to visit Harold. After cooling his heels in Harold's vast lobby, he was ushered into the office. He walked in with a smile, hand extended for a handshake, bade Harold a cheerful hello and prepared to settle in for a talk. But Harold had other plans. As he shook my friend's hand, he stopped him dead in his tracks. "What do you want?" Out came the request, and back came the response (in the affirmative, if I recall). Out went the guest. Total meeting length for a trip halfway across the country: two minutes.
My colleagues and I laughed for years recounting these and other "Harold" visits. We expected nothing less. He was a blast of fresh air, a man who was decisive, and if your presentation had value, virtually unrivaled in his generosity.
In 1986, I set out to form the board of directors for an organization I was endeavoring to launch, the Media Research Center. I visited Harold and made my request. Harold's classic answer: "OK, but only if I don't have to go to any meetings." And he never did, not in the 27 years he served on the board, ultimately as its chairman. His participation was by phone or by proxy, and my visits were always in person. I'd bring him up to speed on things, and he'd offer comments only if he felt it absolutely necessary to do so or took special interest in the financial reports. He always thanked me for the visit.
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