Conservative Republican William McKenzie befriended Gerald Ford while representing Marina Oswald
Dallas Morning News, April 23, 2010
WILLIAM ALLEN McKENZIE, 87, died on Sunday morning, April 18, 2010, four weeks after the death of his beloved wife of 55 years, Sally Freeman McKenzie. Born March 13, 1923, in Columbus, Georgia, William A. McKenzie, was the only child of William A. and Mattye Maye McKenzie. A lifelong Christian and lifelong Member of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, known to all as “Billy Mac”, he and his mother moved to Houston, Texas, when he was very young. During the Depression, his devoted Mother took a secretarial job in Washington, D.C., and young Bill split his time through his teenage years with his Mother in Washington, D.C. and family in Houston. He graduated from Houston’s Reagan High School in 1939. Six hours short of his college graduation, Billy Mac joined 1,300 other classmates from Texas A&M University and joined the United States armed services. An engineer, he was a Captain and company commander in a combat engineer battalion with General George S. Patton’s Third Army. One of his most moving memories of his wartime service occurred at 3:00pm on April 11, 1945. It was that hour when he and other U.S. Army officers liberated the notorious Buchenwald Concentration Camp. McKenzie loved General Patton and with good reason. One of Patton’s favorite quotations was: “Give me an army of West Point graduates and I’ll win a battlegive me a handful of Texas Aggies and I’ll win a war.” After his return from Europe, Captain McKenzie completed his degree at his beloved Texas A&M University in 1946, working his way through school waiting tables at the mess hall. Military experience and an interest in the law brought him to Dallas and the SMU School of Law. While at SMU, McKenzie forged many lifelong friendships through his membership in the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Upon graduating from the SMU School of Law in 1949, he worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Dallas District Attorney’s office, and later joined the law firm of well known and respected trial attorney, Angus G. Wynne, Sr. Bill McKenzie led a charmed and remarkable life. He practiced law for over fifty years in Dallas. His reputation was unblemished and he prided himself in serving as a mentor for young lawyers. Beginning with the Wynne Law Firm, the firm became Wynne & McKenzie and ultimately, he was joined by exceptional corporate attorney, Henry Baer, and they formed McKenzie and Baer. His practice spanned the globe with clients in the four corners of the world. He began a lifelong friendship with former President Gerald Ford through his representation of clients, particularly Marina Oswald during her appearances and testimony before the Warren Commission. In Congress at the time, Gerald Ford, was a member of the Warren Commission. Bill and Sally McKenzie were devoted community and civic volunteers. Bill served as Dallas County Republican Chairman from 1974-1980 and was a member of the State Republican Party Executive Committee. His leadership laid the foundation for the Republican Party’s dominance in Dallas County from the late 1970s until the 1990s. Bill was instrumental in recruiting judicial candidates to run as Republicans, which thereby turned party affiliation of judges at the Dallas County Court House from Democrat to Republican. For over fifty years, he was an advisor and active fundraiser for many Texas and national political leaders. Long time supporters of President George H.W. Bush, Bill McKenzie was Chairman of the Board of Regents at Texas A&M University, when former President Bush selected A&M as the home for his presidential library and museum. As Bush said in his collection of letters, All the Best, McKenzie “was instrumental in getting me to locate my library on that wonderful campus.” Other than his family, nothing meant more to Billy Mac than his affiliation with Texas A&M University. Cadet, Head Yell Leader, Ross Volunteer, Regent from 1981-1993, appointed by Texas Governor Bill Clements, the 29th Chairman of the Board of Regents, and Distinguished Alumnus – all pale in comparison to his simple affection for the campus, Texas A&M’s espirit de corps and the Aggie students gathered in Kyle Field on a beautiful fall day. Billy Mac credited Texas A&M with all good things which came to him, including the naming of the airport terminal building at College Station’s Easterwood Airport, which was named for him in permanent recognition of his love for and devotion to the Aggies. In 2005, Mr. McKenzie, a 33 degree Mason, was recognized with the Masonic Fifty Year Service Award. He was a Life Member of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, served as the secretary/treasurer of the Dallas Bar Association; was a member of The Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association Hall of Fame; was a Board member of the Former Students’ Association of Texas A&M University; and was named a Jimmy Williams Distinguished Alumni by the Dallas A&M Club. Additionally, he was active in many civic and statewide associations, including service as a Trustee of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children; Chairman and Trustee of the Dallas Natural History Museum; the George Bush Foundation; founding member of the Thanksgiving Square Committee; founding board member of Camp Grady Spruce; Board member of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association; Board member of Community Foundation of Texas; and Chairman of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. He, along with Henry S. Miller, Jr., co-founded the Dallas Civic Opera, where he was the initial secretary. Mr. McKenzie was a member of the Dallas Country Club, the Idlewild and Terpsichorean Clubs, a former member of the Brook Hollow Golf Club, and the Tarry House in Austin, Texas. Billy Mac enjoyed spending time at his lake house at Lake Texoma. If the flags were flying, the door was open to all. The family would like to acknowledge and thank the compassionate caregivers: Helga Mayfield, Helen Allen, Shirley Cooks, Magnolia Colwell, Lucy Githua, Willie Wolford, Mabel Chase, and many more who cared for Mr. McKenzie and his wife, Sally, during her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. McKenzie is survived by his daughter, Martha Freeman McKenzie Hill and husband, J. French Hill of Little Rock, Arkansas; his son, Peter Humphries McKenzie and wife, Helen Marie Shea McKenzie of Dallas; and his four beloved grandchildren: Sarah Elizabeth McKenzie Hill; William Payne Hill; Shea Catherine Freeman McKenzie; and William Michael McKenzie.