I lost a dear mentor and friend last Sunday when C. Boyden Gray departed to become a bright ornament in the heavens. But the United States lost a national treasure more valuable than Fort Knox.
I regularly dined with Boyden for over two decades. He poured forth wisdom, erudition, encouragement and guidance like the Nile overflowing its banks. To the extent I have succeeded, to that extent I followed Boyden’s instruction. He was that unerring.
Boyden was a humble man, but he had little to be humble about. He was in the top tier of the nation’s premier lawyers. He served as counsel to Vice President George H.W. Bush for eight years, followed by four years as White House counsel to President H. W. Bush. In other words, Boyden sat at the center of power in the White House for 12 successive years, a record destined to live longer than Barry Bonds’ 762 career home runs.
With the brilliance of Toscanini conducting an orchestra, Boyden navigated the 1991 Civil Rights Act through the extremes of Scylla and Charybdis, landing at an Aristotelian mean.
He served as ambassador to the European Union under President George W. Bush, and special envoy to Europe for Eurasian energy. Boyden was the very definition of a polymath, bettering the instruction of his illustrious father Gordon Gray, national security adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
No one surpassed Boyden in assailing the economic albatross created by the omnipresent administrative state via open-ended congressional delegations of legislative authority to unaccountable bureaucrats eager to create regulatory moats for their expected future employers — the revolving door taken to a new level. Boyden’s persistence in challenging the constitutionality of the sprawling administrative state is perched to be vindicated by the United States Supreme Court after more than 80 years of tiptoeing around the matter. It is unfortunate that Boyden will not be around to run victory laps.
The profusion of superlatives that describe Boyden shroud his greatest trait that should transform him from a hero to a legend: heartfelt decency and concern for everyone he encountered or befriended. Boyden was a doting father to his cherished daughter Eliza, whom he raised as a single parent, and a luminous grandfather to his grandchildren. If he had one foible, it was merriment in trading gossip.
Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed “that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” C. Boyden Gray labored every day toward that glorious end. I was a prime beneficiary.