Clinton delivers eulogy for 'gruff' father-in-law

April 10, 1993|By New York Times News Service

LITTLEROCK, ARK. — LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President Clinton delivered a wry eulogy of Hugh Rodham at a memorial service in Little Rock yesterday, describing his father-in-law as a staunch conservative who "thought Democrats were one step short of Communism -- but that I might be OK."

As friends, family members and White House advisers looked on at First United Methodist Church, Mr. Clinton spoke for nearly half an hour about how the "tough and gruff" Mr. Rodham, who died Wednesday night, looked at him warily at first.

"I suppose it is enough to say that we got along," Mr. Clinton said with a smile at the start of his remarks.

Their common ground was never politics, Mr. Clinton recalled. It was Hillary Rodham, the future first lady.

But, unlike other sons-in-law, Mr. Clinton seemed to relish the sparring in the Rodham household.

"Lord, they loved to argue," he said. "Each one tried to rewrite history to put the proper spin on it. It was a wonderful preparation for politics."

Mr. Rodham died at 82, nearly three weeks after suffering a stroke. His flag-draped coffin was placed at the front of the wood-paneled church, directly in front of the row where his daughter, Hillary Rodham Clinton, sat. The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, sat between her parents.

Mr. Rodham, who, before he retired, operated a small textile business in Chicago, will be buried at the family plot today in his hometown, Scranton, Pa.

Mr. Rodham and his wife, Dorothy, moved to the Arkansas capital in 1987 to be closer to their daughter and her family.

Vice President Al Gore, his wife, Tipper, and a handful of the president's closest aides joined the few hundred congregants.

Noting that Mr. Rodham was "passionately involved with his family," Mr. Clinton said he was proud that his father-in-law lived to see his daughter in the White House.

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