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The News & Observer noted that Heman Clark, who died last week, was a lawyer, prosecutor, judge and Cabinet secretary. At 93, he was one of the last links to the Terry Sanford era in politics.

But I’ll remember Heman most for an evening of kindness to my then-11-year-old son.

It was in 2000, when I was working with Dennis Wicker’s campaign in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. I took my son James to a fundraiser. He quickly grew bored. But I had mixing and mingling to do.

Somehow, Heman sensed our dilemma. He volunteered to talk with James while I greeted supporters and contributors.

I hurriedly worked the fundraiser, then went out on the deck to relieve Heman. But he and James were deep in conversation. Heman waved me off: “You go on now. James and I are talking here.” James seemed annoyed that I interrupted.

I went back to the crowd. Every few minutes, I would check. James would be talking animatedly, and Heman was nodding his head and paying careful attention.

I went out again. Again, Heman told me – politely – to buzz off. “We’re having a nice talk.”

After nearly an hour, I insisted that we had to leave – and we should let Heman go.

On the way home, James excitedly told me about all the things he and Heman had discussed: the beach, sailing and a variety of other subjects that both he and I have now forgotten.

But I’ll never forget a kind and patient gentleman who spent nearly an hour with a boy 75 years his junior – and made him feel important.


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