Dean of Senate John Whitmire Praised for 40 Years of Service

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Colleagues spent Monday afternoon lauding Sen. John Whitmire, known as the Dean of the Senate, for his 40 years of service in Texas elected office.

The Texas Senate, more than any other elected body in Texas, knows how to do pomp and circumstances. It's often a slower and frequently a more polite version of the Texas House. Conservatives and liberals alike praised Whitmire, one of the chamber's most staunch Democrats, for his steadying hand on the chamber.

Speeches ranged in levity, from those who talked about Whitmire's "special corner" of the chamber where the chatter never stops to his well-known cheating on the golf course to those who thanked him for offering to mentor them in subjects such as criminal justice, regardless of party.

Even archconservative Dan Patrick, who could hardly be considered of a like mind with Whitmire, had nothing but praise for Whitmire and his willingness to bring the Prisoners to Pastors program to the Texas prison system.

Some of the most touching comments came from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who alluded to the long close friendship between Whitmire and the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, who died last fall after a failed liver transplant. Van de Putte praised Whitmire for "bringing (Gallegos) to sobriety" so he could receive his transplant.

"He's taught us a lesson, and that's to never give up on someone, even when they've given up on ourselves," Van de Putte told her colleagues.

Most who rose to speak -- and almost everyone in the chamber had something to say about Whitmire -- called the Houston Democrat a good man and a good friend, someone who told conservative Sen. Jane Nelson that if he and Nelson agreed on a subject, one of them wasn't representing their constituency.

Whitmire joined the Senate in 1982, after ten years in the House. He first was elected at the age of 22. The Senate will honor Gallegos on the chamber floor on Tuesday. The special election to replace Whitmire is scheduled for Jan. 26. From the editor: the struck through information is related to the late Senator Mario Gallegos, not Senator Whitmire. We apologize for the error.

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