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Thomas Boggs


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"Thomas Boggs' life was a remarkable Horatio Alger story, but his business success only hinted at the real reasons that it is our opinion that his life was marked by greatness. More to the point, it was his unshakable humanitarian, compassionate, and loving attitude toward his

hometown and the people in it."

We begin our eulogy to a dear friend, Thomas Boggs, with this borrowed encomium from an equally dear friend, Tom Jones of the Smart City Memphis blog. We do not intend this as plagiarism — merely as a necessary part of our homage to Boggs, the owner of the greatly successful Huey's restaurants, the partner in other food franchises, and, as Jones suggests in this passage from his own eulogy, one of the city's preeminent humanitarians.

And we might add that words coming from Boggs' friend and neighbor Jones, who tragically lost a daughter himself this past week to cancer, the same ailment which felled Boggs, carry special weight. For Thomas Boggs, like Emily Jones Schrader, left this world too soon.

His fellow restaurateurs presented Boggs, a former president of the Memphis Restaurant Association, with the MRA's Civic and Community Leadership Award last year in tribute to his numerous civic and charitable endeavors. We remember him, too, already ravaged by cancer but almost obscuring the fact by his ever-resilient energy and by the enduring charm of his smile, lending himself, for the most selfless of reasons, to this or that activist cause during these last two years.

Boggs was a musician early on, with the Box Tops and other popular groups, and, all the way to the end, his spirit never stopped rocking. In the telling of his many friends, a group in which we proudly include ourselves, it never will.

Frist the Healer

Former Senate majority leader Bill Frist was in town this week, addressing the East Memphis Rotary Club on the theme of health care. Frist described himself as "much more egalitarian than the typical Republican," and, for the most part, he sounded like it. Speaking no longer as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration, the onetime heart surgeon said the nation faced a crisis in providing health care to some 47 million uninsured, and that there had been a lack of leadership "at the presidential level" in resolving the crisis. Asked to compare the health plans advocated by the three leading candidates for the presidency, Frist did so fairly, summing up the advantages of each, and seemed to our ears to tilt toward the semi-voluntary plan advocated by Democrat Barack Obama. "He counts in the costs," Frist said approvingly.

The former senator spoke more about his recent health missions to Africa than he did politics, though he found time to issue a condemnation of what he called "bi-modal" government (that which most of us refer to as excessive partisanship). The sentiments Frist uttered on Tuesday were unexceptionable, though we wonder if his own sponsorship of the Medicare drug bill of some years back hadn't contributed more than a tad to the $35 trillion unfunded liability of Medicare now. Even so, this native son made sense in much of his diagnosis, and we'll be listening close to such remedies as he may want to propose.

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