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Ray Hutchison Remembered As Powerful Force Behind North Texas Landmarks

Shelley Kofler
Retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison following her husband Ray's funeral at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.

Former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were among the political elite who celebrated the life of Ray Hutchison Thursday.

The 81-year-old husband of former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison died Sunday of a heart problem, leaving behind a legacy that includes many of the biggest public projects in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Democrats and Republicans, state office holders, local officials and longtime friends filled the pews at the Church of the Incarnation Thursday. They honored the Navy veteran and bond lawyer, who was remembered as the legal wizard behind financing many of North Texas’ most prominent public projects: DFW International Airport, DART, and just about every area sports stadium built over the past 40 years.

Credit Texas Tribune/Bracewell & Giuliani
Texas Tribune/Bracewell & Giuliani
Civic leader Ray Hutchison, 81, died Sunday following a heart problem.

“Once he got the bit in his teeth there was no stopping, there was no slowing down,” longtime law partner Ben Brooks told those gathered at the funeral. 

He noted the major sporting events taking place this week alone that were touched by Hutchison.

“The Final Four basketball tournament at the AT&T stadium where Ray represented the city of Arlington and working with Jerry Jones put together the financing structure; the opening of baseball season at the ballpark where Ray, Mayor Cluck, and President Bush put together the financing for that stadium as well.”

Some 200,000 people are expected this weekend at a NASCAR event at the Texas Motor Speedway, another Hutchison project.

“Who knew this was Ray Hutchison week?” Brooks said.

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk said Hutchison deftly combined the political skills gained while he was in the state legislature with his legal genius to make big dreams a reality.

“He was a mad scientist of legal finance, he was the father of municipal finance in Texas.  And I don’t think anyone would want to imagine this city without DFW Airport, without the DART rail system, without the convention centers,” Kirk said.

Bishop Anthony Burton also remembered a man who loved playing Mr. Mom to his two young children while his wife, the former senator, was in Washington. And a husband who easily supported his politically powerful wife.

“It was said he was the best political spouse in American politics. When Kay was elected to the senate he caused delight and confusion by showing up at the Senate Wives’ Club where he declared himself the new president,” Bishop Burton said to laughter.

Phil Gramm, who served with Kay Hutchison in the Senate, said her husband’s legacy includes making Texas a better, freedom-loving place.

“I know God loves America, and I know he loves Texas more,” Gramm joked.  “So I’ve got to believe that even as we’re here to honor him that Ray is enjoying the benefits of that work for American and for Texas."