President Clinton’s beloved great-uncle Henry “Buddy” Grisham, often cited as a major influence on his life, has died at the age of 92.
Clinton spoke often of “Uncle Buddy” while introducing himself to voters on the campaign trail. A retired firefighter who at one point owned a doughnut shop, Grisham encouraged Clinton to plug ahead in politics even after his tough defeat in the 1980 race for Arkansas governor.
Describing him as a favorite relative, Clinton has said Grisham “was a real important part of my early life.” He looked to him as a role model because his own father was dead and his stepfather was an alcoholic.
“I’m not sure I’d be here today if it wasn’t for him,” the president said after visiting Grisham in the hospital in 1995.
Grisham, too, recalled their relationship with fondness. He played with Clinton when the future president was a toddler and watched him grow up with considerable pride, boasting to reporters that his great-nephew was a studious boy who “never ran off to the creek to go fishing.”
Grisham died Monday night at a nursing home in Clinton’s hometown of Hope, Ark.
Clinton had visited him there regularly over the years. During one memorable visit just before the Democratic National Convention in 1992, Grisham gave Clinton a family Bible in a brown paper bag--and both were moved to tears.
Reflecting on the loss Tuesday, Clinton told Associated Press that Grisham “was my family’s last link to the past.” The president said he plans to mourn with other relatives tonight in Hope. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
Grisham is survived by his sons, Conrad and Duane, and his daughters, Falba Lively and Myra Irvin.