One of the benefits of growing up on South St. Mary's Road in rural Libertyville, Illinois, was being a neighbor to Adlai Stevenson II. The elder Stevenson was the grandson of vice-president Adlai Stevenson (the Grover Cleveland administration), former governor of Illinois, twice-nominated candidate for the presidency on the Democratic ticket and the U. S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
His son, Adlai III, inherited an impressive political bloodline.
During my adolescent years, I spent a lot of my free time on the Stevenson farm. The farm manager's son, Jim Holland, was my best friend.
One fall Saturday morning in 1961, Jim and I stopped by Adlai II's home office. He was seated behind his desk and there were a couple of other people in the room.
At the time, I had a 17-foot canoe. Adlai II had given me permission to leave it on his property next to his row boat on the banks of the Des Plaines River.
Suddenly, someone started to enter the room, but stopped seeing the crowd. I had never seen this person before. He was dressed for hunting and his attire was pure Abercrombie & Fitch. He was carrying an over-and-under shotgun, also very impressive.
Speaking to no one in particular, he asked whose canoe was down at the river? He explained he wanted to use it to cross the river to hunt pheasant on the Red Top Farm property. Adlai II laughingly said, "It belongs to Bruce, you'll have ask him," and pointed in my direction on the other side of the room. After an awkward pause, I quickly responded with, "Sure, of course you can use it." I had no idea who this person was, but I knew he was someone important. A few minutes later I whispered to Jimmy, "Who was that guy?" Jimmy whispered back, "He's Adlai's oldest son, Adlai III."
After that first meeting, my relationship with Adlai III continued to thrive during the next 15 years and beyond. I was motivated by his dedication to public service. That motivation was what urged me to be elected a precinct committeeman and township chairman in Libertyville on the Democratic ticket. I was also active in Adlai's winning campaign for Illinois State Treasurer.
I later left Illinois to pursue a career in journalism. Adlai and I stayed in touch, and our paths crossed a number of times over the years. He was a fascinating individual: intelligent, perceptive and intuitive. However, his dedication to help others, his honesty and integrity set him apart.
Adlai III had the ability to deal with both the power of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the soft-spoken demeanor of President Jimmy Carter, who considered Adlai as his running mate, but decided on Walter Mondale instead.
Adlai and I continued our friendship throughout his various business ventures, eventually spanning some 60 years. He told me on more than one occasion, "Don't get old, Bruce. It's tough."
I will miss him; the people of Illinois will miss him. He served us all well.
Bruce Mackey is a retired daily newspaper and business journal publisher.