June 16, 2011

33,640 Days: Honorable Graham P. Purcell, Jr.

[Page: H4189]  GPO's PDF 

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Thornberry) for 5 minutes.

Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House that one of our former colleagues, the Honorable Graham P. Purcell, Jr., has passed away at the age of 92.

Graham Purcell was a larger-than-life figure who led a remarkable life of service. Whether it was as a soldier in World War II, a State judge, or a U.S. Congressman, he served with a strength of character and with a love of country that has provided an example and an inspiration for many people, including me. A man of deep faith, Graham possessed a generosity of spirit that extended to all aspects of his life. He was a member of the Greatest Generation that saved the world from totalitarianism and then came home to build the most prosperous nation the world has ever known. But Graham Purcell was also an individual who would stand out in any generation, rising from humble roots to help make history.

He was born in Archer County, Texas, on May 5, 1919. After high school, he enrolled in Texas A&M, but the war came, and shortly after Pearl Harbor he entered the Army, serving in Tunisia and in Italy, and earning, among other awards, the Silver Star. Even after he was discharged, he continued to serve in the Army Reserves for a number of years. When he returned from the war, he finished his degree at Texas A&M and then Baylor Law School. After practicing law for a few years, he was appointed judge for the 89th district court in Texas, and served from 1955 until 1962, when he resigned in order to run for Congress in a special election.

Serving in the House from January 1962 until January 1973, Congressman Purcell focused primarily on his work on the Agriculture Committee, serving as chairman of the Livestock Subcommittee. He also played a key role in the Congressional Prayer Breakfast, and served the people of North Texas with integrity and distinction for 11 years. After Congress, Graham practiced law and helped found a large law firm and then served as a visiting district judge in Texas. But in whatever capacity--soldier, judge, Congressman, citizen--Graham was committed to serving others. He and his wife, Nancy, just recently received an award for helping children in crisis in the Wichita Falls community.

Graham Purcell led a rich, full, remarkable life. How many others can say that they shook hands with Winston Churchill while serving as a soldier in Italy; had Vice President Johnson come pick him and his family up at the airport just after he was elected in a special election to take them to the Johnson home so they could stay for a while until they had a chance to find a place of their own; or, on the last night of President Kennedy's life spent more than an hour with him on the plane from Houston to Forth Worth, swapping stories back and forth, and then was in the motorcade the next day when President Kennedy was assassinated; or, made numerous trips back and forth to Vietnam to thank our soldiers for what they were doing there, always stopping at a burn unit along the way to make sure that those severely wounded would know that their country appreciated what they were doing; or, at age 92, just a few weeks ago, offer important guidance and advice to one of his successors about the importance of putting the country first ahead of party, ahead of personal considerations.

Although Graham loved history--and he certainly loved to regale family and friends with some of his amazing stories--he was also a person who was always looking forward. He was consumed by what kind of country would be left to his children and his grandchildren. And it was this focus on the common good that dominated his life story and really defined him as a man and as a public servant. He and his wife, Nancy, have 8 surviving children as well as 25 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren, all of whom benefited from his loving care and will miss him greatly.

Although Graham had many titles and roles in his life, he knew that first and foremost he was a child of God. It was from this perspective that he lived--and it is in this assurance that he now rests.

(House of Representatives - June 15, 2011)

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