I spent a good portion of the morning reading about Barber Conable. What a good man.
No wonder he made number two on the list of 25 Things that Made Genesee County Famous.
Not only did Conable give us the term "smoking gun" (during the Watergate Scandal), but he was regarded by his peers as the most respected member of Congress (he never accepted an individual campaign contribution for more than $50); he also "put the 'K' in 401(k)" when he helped rewrite the tax code to help protect pensions at Eastman Kodak; and. as president of the World Bank, he transformed the organization into an institution that assisted women and children in poor nations.
Throughout his career, Conable maintained his connection to Batavia, returning home every weekend to meet with his friends and constituents.
My favorite passage in articles I read about Conable came from historian Yanek Mieczkowski:
I noticed framed, meticulous pencil sketches on some walls, and he explained that they were just doodles that he had made while a congressman.
Just doodles? They looked beautiful, and they had been enough to impress Ronald Reagan. The president had heard about the congressman's drawings, and asked to have some. Conable sent a few samples to the White House. In return, the president sent a page of his own sketches, on White House stationery, to the congressman. "Barber," the president wrote. "These are just doodles. Yours are art."
Mieczkowski's piece on Conable is outstanding, I recommend reading the entire piece.
I also found these two notable quotes from Conable:
"He (the first President Bush) thought I should be supporting an American agenda (as World Bank president). I thought I was there to help the poor people. So I got the reputation of not being a team player, and that was the one thing George wouldn't stand for."
"I could have stayed in Washington at six figures if I had wanted to. I considered it. But they wanted a stuffed exhibit and not a lawyer, and I didn't want to be a stuffed exhibit. They wanted to use my name and put me in the firm and give me a special 'of counsel' status. At the appropriate time the senior partner would push a button and I would come into the consultation he was having with his client and he'd say, 'You remember former Congressman Barber Conable, don't you? Remember the great role he played in Ways and Means?' That image frightened me."
Not only did Conable help make Genesee County famous, he should be at the top of any list of things to make Genesee County proud.