“I’m not a chick-flick enthusiast” (Clint Eastwood)

As you all know, I like to use famous quotes as titles. At first, I thought I’d use a Reagan quote because Congressman Clint Roberts was the prototypical Reaganite but then I ran across the above quote and I laughed. Do you think Clint ever watched a chick flick?

I have cried twice in my life because my preferred candidate lost an election. Most who know me would correctly guess Senator Abdnor’s 1986 re-election loss. But, only the few who were there would know the other election night bawl was when Clint Roberts lost the 1978 GOP nomination for Governor. Clint’s gubernatorial campaign was really my first campaign. That Spring I went down to the campaign headquarters after track was over and volunteered until they were closing the office. Before long, I was taking mailers to school and recruiting friends to stuff fold them during study hall.

I was raised by a single mom and am the oldest of four children. As you might guess, I was able to go under my mom’s radar but fortunately some in our community kept a pretty good watch, for all of whom I’m most grateful. Well, because of that spring helping on the Roberts campaign, Clint and Bev Roberts became one more guardian angel for this kid living on the edge. Bev of course was the more angelic in how she talked to me while Clint was just as you would expect- stern and firm.

I’ve had the opportunity to observe up close four politicians who couldn’t be more different as people- Jim Abdnor, Bill Janklow, George Mickelson and Clint Roberts. Contrary to perceptions, in substance their political views were actually very close despite their different public personas, styles, and personalities.

As a politician, I found Roberts unique. Abdnor loved working a room and crowd. Janklow loved giving speeches and firing people up. Mickelson loved hearing ideas and sharing his. Put these three in these situations and you could see their energy go up. Roberts didn’t seem to like or dislike any of these things. He just did them with the same level of energy he probably moved cattle on his ranch- steadily and methodically. To this day, I’ve never seen a politician like him in this regard.

As a friend, I found Clint also unique. Clint didn’t want to listen to you babble to fill silence and he certainly wasn’t one to fill silence. If nobody had anything to say, it was silent. I remember one night when I must have been running something over from Abdnor’s office to Congressman Roberts’ office and he spontaneously invited me to dinner. We went to Bull Feathers (his favorite spot) on Capital Hill. After I had told him how school and my work was going and he told me how he was adapting to DC, we ordered our meal, had a few drinks, during which there were many periods where nothing was said. When we parted, I thanked him for the meal but wondered if he had regretted wasting his evening with me because he sure didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. Then, a few weeks later, he called and invited me again to dinner. Same type of evening. I wasn’t another member of Congress, a lobbyist, or on his staff. I think Clint was just longing to go for a horseback ride and dinner with me was as close as it got in DC.

I don’t remember how long ago it was that Clint and Bev lost their daughter Christie to cancer. I have some very faint recollections of asking how she was doing when she was sick and I suspect I expressed my condolences but don’t remember for sure. But, probably very close to exactly seven years ago, Clint Roberts called me at my office to talk after I lost my daughter Sydney. To this day, it is one of my most treasured conversations because Clint Roberts was an actual example of a Dad living after losing a daughter. Clint had something to say to me and he did all the talking. I can’t recall what he said. I just remember he called, he talked, I listened, and I cried.

Bev and family, you are in my thoughts and prayers. You were blessed to have loved and been loved by someone as unique as Clint Roberts. It had to have been a heck of a horseback ride. May the soul of Clint Roberts, by the mercy of God, Rest In Peace. Amen.

6 thoughts on ““I’m not a chick-flick enthusiast” (Clint Eastwood)

  1. Matt Staab

    Wonderful story.

    My first job out of college was working on the Clint Roberts for Governor campaign in Rapid City. Cried quite a bit election night myself….

    A class act and a great man. I miss him already.

    God be with you Clint.

    Reply
  2. Charlie Hoffman

    Ditto on what you wrote Lee! I got to know the Roberts family in the 1978 Gubernatorial campaign. Clint loved cowboy logical conservatism.

    Reply
  3. Bill Fleming

    Beautiful. Thanks for writing this, Troy.

    Sincere condolences to all here who knew Mr. Roberts. I never had the pleasure, but it sounds like “a pleasure” is exactly what knowing him would have been.

    Further to all who share about Mr, Roberts here for bringing humanity, feeling, meaning, and connection to this politically significant SD legend. We’re all the better for it. BF

    Reply

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