Harry Whittington, the man who was mistakenly shot by former vice president Dick Cheney when they were quail hunting on a Texas ranch 17 years ago, has passed away. He was 95.
According to a family friend, Karl Rove, Whittington passed away at his Austin home on Saturday.
Before the unintentional shooting catapulted Whittington into the national spotlight, the lawyer was well-known for his contributions to the growth of Texas’s Republican Party into the state’s preeminent political force and for being the man governors turned to when troubled state agencies needed to be fixed.
Whittington was described as “a man of immense integrity and deep compassion” by influential Republican strategist Karl Rove, a former adviser to former President George W. Bush. Rove said Whittington was called upon by leaders for “critical jobs.”
On February 11, 2006, Cheney was out bird hunting with Whittington and several other people on the sizable Armstrong Ranch in South Texas when Cheney accidentally hit Whittington, who was 78 at the time. The ranch owner called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times the following day to report the mishap, but it wasn’t until then that it was made public.
Cheney came under fire for breaking a fundamental hunting rule, according to which the bearer of a firearm must be certain of the target before releasing the trigger, as well as for delaying announcing the incident to the public.
He was a remarkable person, so it sort of bothers me to be remembered as having died in a hunting accident.
Numerous jokes were also made about the incident.
Then-host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC, Jay Leno, joked that Cheney would capitalize on the mishap by releasing a new fragrance called “Duck” for Valentine’s Day. At a conference, billionaire Bill Gates began by declaring, “I’m really delighted to be here. Dick Cheney invited me to go quail hunting with him.
Days after the incident, Cheney remarked in an interview with Fox News that it was “one of the worst days of my life at that moment.”
Cheney claimed that Whittington had left the hunting party to retrieve a downed bird from thick cover when the accident occurred. Whittington, according to Cheney, was appropriately attired in orange, and the upper half of his body was exposed, but he was also standing in a gully with the sun in his back.
No one else is to blame, Cheney said. “I’m the one that shot my friend,” the shooter said.
Many of the state’s GOP power brokers established their empires in a building owned by Whittington in downtown Austin. Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry both used the structure as their campaign offices. There was also Rove’s office.
Whittington had a history of involvement in Texas politics. He supported John Tower’s bid for the U.S. Senate in 1961 and later assisted George H.W. Bush in his unsuccessful bid for Congress. He spent a lot of time on state boards and was a go-to man for governors looking to fix up failing state agencies.
Whittington, according to Rove, was “a huge source of good guidance and mentorship to hundreds,” including him, in addition to serving his community in a variety of ways.
To be remembered as the victim of a hunting accident bothers me somewhat because he was such a remarkable person, Rove said.