Written by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and delivered at Fred's Funeral.
Tribute to Fred G. Dutton
Arlington National Cemetery Old Post Chapel
September 30, 2005
Nancy, Kit, Lisa, Eve, Stacy, and Christina, and so many other family and friends are here to celebrate the life of Fred Dutton – or as we loved to call him Fred O’ Dutton.
In many ways, Fred was the personification of the “New Frontier,” the new generation that was, as my brother Jack said, born in this century, tempered in war, and committed to advancing the American ideals of freedom and progress at home and abroad.
The fullness of his life – and the depth of his commitment to public service and his wonderful friendships – were a constant inspiration to us all.
From the time Lt. Dutton took up his rifle at the Battle of the Bulge to the time he left us earlier this summer, Fred never stopped trying to make America and the world better, stronger, and fairer places.
His accomplishments reveal a man of vision, determination, and immense ability. He helped usher in a new age of progressive government in California as Pat Brown’s campaign manager in the 1950’s and later led the Democratic Party in opening the nominating process for our Party and ensuring a greater voice for women and minorities.
No matter what the prevailing winds of the day, he was proud to be called a liberal, and always refused to trim his sails. This is one quality I’ve always found particularly admirable.
He knew what he believed, and had the extraordinary ability to advance the great ideals we share.
Fred probably gave Ronald Reagan more fits during their service together on the University of California Board of Regents that I ever could in the Senate.
It all began in 1960, when Jack brought in the young West Coast political genius we’d all been hearing so much about.
The stars were in perfect alignment for Fred. We all came to admire him and love him. He was invaluable to Jack in the campaign and in the White House years as well, and to LBJ in 1964, and Bobby in 1968. He was indispensable.
Above all, he was brilliant in providing both the unvarnished advice at critical moments that so often politicians need to hear, and adding a moment of levity in even the most difficult of circumstances.
When all else seemed to fail, you could always count on being picked up by hearing Fred’s joyful “he-he-he.”
After Jack left us, it was also Fred who guided the creation of the JFK Library and created the Oral History Project. In those difficult days, it was no easy task, but because of Fred generations to come will be able to know the man and the President we both loved so dearly.
He was a man for all seasons in so many ways. He was a great pragmatist as well as an idealist, knowing that in order to wield power to do good and improve people’s lives – first you have to get it.
On the campaign bus in 1968, he was the disciplinarian too, bringing order and method to a campaign that thrived on passion and dedication.
When Bobby kept insisting on campaign stops off the well-worn track, Fred would intone “Why are we spending so much time there now, they’ll be more than happy to give you a rain check for the next eight years?” Bobby might have been aggravated, but he knew Fred was right, which he always was.
One of the oddest campaign stops I ever heard about was in April of 1968, near Julesburg, Colorado. It’s where Fred was born, and Bobby, Ethel, and a few other conspirators arranged to stop the train for an impromptu whistle stop rally endorsing “Dutton for President.”
He meant the world to all of us. I’ve always loved this little note that Fred sent Jack in the White House during a tense period that said simply: “How much quieter a place the White House could be during the days Andrew Jackson was here.”
To the note he attached an 1833 letter to Jackson from a military aide that said, “If it weren’t for Congress meetin’ once a year, we’d put the government in a one-horse wagon, and go just where we liked.”
I’m sure there were days that wheeling the whole operation out of town may have been an attractive option for Jack, but with Fred Dutton around every day the New Frontier load was much easier to bear.
So thank you Fred for everything – for your compassion, for your joy, for your dedication. And God Bless you, dear friend.
With Jack and Bobby so close by here, I know their smiling down on us today.