Austin lawyer shot dead by Dick Cheney
AUSTIN, Texas — Harry Whittington, a Texas Republican trailblazer and prominent Austin attorney who found himself in the national spotlight in 2006 when he was accidentally shot by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, is died this weekend at 95.
Whittington’s death has been reported by multiple news outlets since Sunday and confirmed by his wife and family friend Karl Rove. No cause of death has been listed and no funeral arrangements have been made public.
Tall and impeccably dressed, Whittington remained active in his Austin law practice well into his 90s. For the rest of his life, he carried in his cheek and torso some of Cheney’s shotgun bird pellets during the quail hunting accident on a ranch owned by the influential Armstrong family. of South Texas.
In a 2018 interview with the USA TODAY network that coincided with the release of Cheney’s biopic, “Vice,” Whittington said he had stayed in touch with the former vice president since the February 2006 incident and that he had no ill will. At the time of the interview, Whittington said he had last seen Cheney a few months earlier in Austin.
“He and I went to dinner,” said Whittington, who called the film’s account of the filming inaccurate and misleading. “We are just acquaintances.”
After being released from the hospital following the shooting accident, Whittington issued a public apology to Cheney due to the controversy which proved to be rich for the late night comics.
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Prior to the hunting accident, first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, part of the USA TODAY Network, to the dismay of the White House press, Whittington had been an insider in the emergence of the Republican Party when Texas was dominated by Democrats. He led the successful U.S. Senate campaign for John Tower in 1961 when the Republican won the seat vacated by Lyndon Johnson’s ascension to Vice President.
It was the first statewide victory by a Texas Republican since Reconstruction. Whittington, a native of Henderson in East Texas, was appointed chairman of the board that oversees state prisons by the then-governor. William Clements and later was hired by George W. Bush to lead the panel that oversees the Texas funeral industry.
In 2000, Whittington filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin over land he owned that had been condemned for the city’s convention center. The lengthy lawsuit ended about 13 years later, with a court ordering the city to pay Whittington and his family $10.5 million.
Shot at 78
Whittington, who was 78 at the time of the hunting accident and 91 when questioned at his law firm about the biopic, said the injuries he suffered did not slow him down even as the years piled up.
“I’m able to navigate and move around. I still have a lot of ‘silent sinkers’, but some of them had to be lifted and removed,” he said. “When I go to the doctors they all want to look at my pellets which I still have. Usually everyone at the clinic wants to come and see. I get a lot of questions and talks about it.
“Needless to say, I’m very, very lucky.”
John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA TODAY Network in Austin. Contact him at John.Moritz@caller.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.