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Indomitable Spirit

John Reagan "Tex" McCrary Hits 90

Full of Vim and Purpose

Detail of large poster presented to Tex

Detail of large poster presented to Tex

By Carter B. Horsley

In jaded New York, there have been many magic moments, but even so they are rare.

On Oct. 13, 2000, the city was graced with one more - the 90th birthday celebration for John Reagan "Tex" McCrary, the legendary publicist.

Held in the spectacular model model room of the New York Yacht Club on 44th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas, the event was attended by an impressive array of politicians, Congresspeople Charles Rangel and Carolyn Maloney, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, and others such as Mark Greene and Alan Hevesi - and a bevy of heavyweight journalists many of whom such as William Safire of The New York Times and Gabe Pressman of NBC-TV were alumni of the "McCrary" school of journalism as was Barbara Walters, the television woman, who did not attend. Howard Rubenstein, the city's current public relations king, was present, as were New York Post columnists Sidney Zion and Steve Dunleavy, and Andy Rooney from "60 Minutes," the CBS television news magazine. A message from Colin Powell was read to McCrary by Powell's lovely daughter, as McCrary, who was very influential in getting Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for President, was a strong supporter of a Powell Presidential nomination as well as a strong backer of Senator John McCain. In fine fettle, McCrary announced that he has not "given up yet" on either Powell or McCain, or a plan to create an international conference center on Ellis Island (see The City Review article), a project that he worked on several years ago with William Hubbard, who, with his wife, Robin, the founder and head of The Readnet Foundation (see The City Review article), hosted the event.

McCrary was a colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II in Europe and was long involved in many patriotic affairs including the U.S.S. Intrepid Museum on the Hudson River. During the war, he married Jinx Falkenburg, a model and actress who would become the first Miss Rheingold and subsequently his partner on a popular radio talk program in New York that would later become a television program. McCrary had worked for a time with Walter Winchell and was close with John Hay Whitney, the art collector, race-horse owner and publisher of The New York Herald Tribune.

McCrary read a note from his wife, Jinx, who was too ill to attend, and noted prouded that he himself was now "clear" of the most recent of his five bouts with cancer. Tall and handsome, McCrary stood up during the entire long occasion to listen to the many accolades given him as well as several serenades, during one of which he donned a large sombrero. He used the occasion to launch the "First Voters' Foundation," and, still eagle-eyed, he spotted many of the beautiful women in the room such as Mrs. Byron Janis, who was there with her husband, the pianist. "Wish Gary were here," he yelled out to her, referring to her late father, Gary Cooper, the actor.

"I'm not 90, but triple 30's," McCrary quipped to the great amusement of the audience, which also included Ted Kheel, the famed labor arbitrator, and Sam LeFrak, the real estate developer.

Tex coined the "I Like Ike" campaign motto, but it was clear from this evening's celebration that a lot of New Yorkers not only like, but love Tex who gives new, forceful and noble meaning to the notion of growing old gracefully and not "giving up."

It sometimes seems that there are too many testimonials and awards. On any given night in New York City alone, there are probably a half-dozen major "honoring" functions and while they all may be worthy they are not all necessarily memorable.

Indomitable spirits do not always stand tall. Tex does.

Mr. McCrary passed away in 2003.


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