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Lee Atwater


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In the months after the severity of his illness became apparent, Atwater said he had converted to Catholicism, through the help of Father John Hardon[20] and, in an act of repentance, Atwater issued a number of public and written letters to individuals to whom he had been opposed during his political career. In a June 28, 1990, letter to Tom Turnipseed, he stated, "It is very important to me that I let you know that out of everything that has happened in my career, one of the low points remains the so-called 'jumper cable' episode," adding, "My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood, and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything."[6]

 

In a February 1991 article for Life magazine, Atwater wrote:

 

 

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiringacquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.[21]

 

The article was notable for an apology to Michael Dukakis for the "naked cruelty" of the 1988 presidential election campaign.[21][22]

 

Ed Rollins, however, stated in the 2008 documentary Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, that "[Atwater] was telling this story about how a Living Bible was what was giving him faith and I said to Mary (Matalin), 'I really, sincerely hope that he found peace.' She said, 'Ed, when we were cleaning up his things afterwards, the Bible was still wrapped in the cellophane and had never been taken out of the package,' which just told you everything there was. He was spinning right to the end."[14]

 

Death[edit]

 

Atwater died on March 29, 1991, from his brain tumor. Funeral services were held at the Trinity Cathedral Church in Atwater's final residence, Columbia, South Carolina. A memorial service was held at the Washington National Cathedral.[23]

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