We were hoping he could speak at our editorial writers' convention here in Little Rock this coming September. We had him down tentatively - and what mortal can make plans that aren't tentative? - as the speaker for our final dinner. He'd have been perfect. Having been commentator and newsmaker at different times in his career, he knew both sides of the street.
Tony Snow had worked his way through various editorial writing slots - from the Greensboro (N.C.) Record to the Detroit News to the Washington Times - before becoming a fixture on the nightly news as White House press secretary. You wouldn't have known it by his ever-boyish manner, but he'd been around.
Tony said he'd try to make it to Little Rock, even though we both knew the chances were iffy; he'd already taken a couple of leaves of absence to fight his cancer. But you could tell he meant it. No one ever heard Tony say anything he didn't mean, except perhaps in wry jest.
Recalling his last appearance here, he added that Little Rock would always hold a special place in his affections. Years ago he'd agreed to take part in an event at Wildwood, our local arts center in the woods. It was another one of those seminars on the Fourth Estate and Its Role in American Society. I can barely remember what was said (it was all duly eloquent) but I'll never forget Tony's standing there alongside Arkansas' own Richard S. Arnold, the greatest jurist never to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court since Learned Hand.
What a contrast: Judge Arnold, who had the demeanor, learning and moderation of a wise old man even when he was a young one - all of which he carried with a light grace - was standing there next to Tony, who would remain the very picture of Young America even while the cancer and chemo took their toll on his appearance - but never on his spirit.
Game was the word for Tony, whether he was playing with his band or taking on his next gig in the news business. Editorials, syndicated columns, Fox News, the White House he'd done it all.
Tony almost didn't make it to Wildwood that day. His flight was late (of course) and we were afraid we'd have to start with our star attraction stuck somewhere in traffic on I-630. The audience was already filling the place and the sound checks had begun. This was going to be embarrassing.