Harry Whittington
Harry M. Whittington is an American lawyer
Law of the United States
The law of the United States consists of many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, of which the most important is the United States Constitution, the foundation of the federal government of the United States...

, real estate
Real estate
In general use, esp. North American, 'real estate' is taken to mean "Property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals, or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this; an item of real property; buildings or...

 investor, and political figure
Politics of the United States
The United States is a federal constitutional republic, in which the President of the United States , Congress, and judiciary share powers reserved to the national government, and the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.The executive branch is headed by the President...

 from Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...

 who received international media attention on February 11, 2006, when he was shot
Dick Cheney hunting incident
The Dick Cheney hunting incident occurred on February 11, 2006, when then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney, while participating in a quail hunt on a ranch in Kenedy County, Texas...

 by Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

 while hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds generally considered in the order Galliformes. Old World quail are found in the family Phasianidae, while New World quail are found in the family Odontophoridae...

 with two women on a ranch in Kenedy County, Texas, near Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi is a coastal city in the South Texas region of the U.S. state of Texas. The county seat of Nueces County, it also extends into Aransas, Kleberg, and San Patricio counties. The MSA population in 2008 was 416,376. The population was 305,215 at the 2010 census making it the...



Whittington was born in Henderson, Texas
Henderson, Texas
Henderson is a city in Rusk County, Texas, United States. The population was 11,273 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Rusk County...

 on March 3, 1927. He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

 and began practicing law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 in Austin in 1950. Whittington was a member of the Texas Beta chapter of Phi Delta Theta
Phi Delta Theta
Phi Delta Theta , also known as Phi Delt, is an international fraternity founded at Miami University in 1848 and headquartered in Oxford, Ohio. Phi Delta Theta, Beta Theta Pi, and Sigma Chi form the Miami Triad. The fraternity has about 169 active chapters and colonies in over 43 U.S...

. The same year, he married Mercedes Baker and they now have four daughters and six grandchildren. In 2006, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman
Austin American-Statesman
The Austin American-Statesman is the major daily newspaper for Austin, the capital city of Texas. It is an award-winning publication owned by Cox Enterprises. The Newspaper places focus on issues affecting Austin and the Central Texas region....

referred to him as "very rich, very stubborn and very patient." He has also been active in Texas state politics.

Government service

Over the years, he has been appointed to several committees and commissions, including the Office of Patient Protection Executive Committee (a committee formed by the governor of Texas to ensure the rights of patients), the Texas Public Finance Authority Board, and the Texas Department of Corrections. He is also the current chairman of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, a position he was appointed to by then-Texas Governor
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. In the 1980s, as an appointee of Gov. Bill Clements
Bill Clements
William Perry "Bill" Clements, Jr. was the 42nd and 44th Governor of Texas, serving from 1979 to 1983 and 1987 to 1991. Clements was the first Republican to have served as governor of the U.S. state of Texas since Reconstruction...

, he was instrumental in bringing about reforms necessary for Texas to comply with a federal court order that found the state's treatment of its prisoners unconstitutional. Whittington is outspoken about his doubts about the death penalty as it is applied in Texas, especially in regard to defendants who are mentally handicapped.

Texas Funeral Service Commission

Whittington was named presiding officer of the Texas Funeral Service Commission after a major shakeup of the agency in 1999.

Land dispute

Whittington is a major land owner in Travis County, Texas
Travis County, Texas
As of 2009, the U.S. census estimates there were 1,026,158 people, 320,766 households, and 183,798 families residing in the county. The population density was 821 people per square mile . There were 335,881 housing units at an average density of 340 per square mile...

, with property amounting to a reported $11 million. Beginning in 2000, Whittington has been fighting a legal case over the eminent domain
Eminent domain
Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

 seizure of a city block of his property in Austin. The city wants to use the land to build a parking garage. Although he has been successful so far in court (the Texas Supreme Court
Texas Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Texas is the court of last resort for non-criminal matters in the state of Texas. A different court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is the court of last resort for criminal matters.The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices...

 refused to consider the case, effectively ruling in his favor), the city went ahead and built the garage anyway. Depending on the final outcome of the trial, it is unclear what will become of the parking garage or if ownership of the land would revert to Whittington.

Hunting incident

On Saturday, February 11, 2006, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Whittington was accidentally shot by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

 during a quail
New World quail
The New World quails or Odontophorids are small birds only distantly related to the Old World Quails, but named for their similar appearance and habits. The American species are in their own family Odontophoridae, whereas Old World Quail are in the pheasant family Phasianidae...

 hunting trip, at a ranch in south Texas owned by Katharine Armstrong. Most of the damage from the shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

 blast was to the right side of his body, including damage to his face, chest, and neck. He was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital
Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital
Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital is a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. It is the second largest in the Christus Spohn hospital system with 397 beds and 30 resident physicians, and is the lead emergency facility in the region...

 by ambulance. The accident was not announced in the news media until the White House confirmed the incident to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times is the newspaper of record for Corpus Christi, Texas.-Brief history:There has been a newspaper in Corpus Christi for almost as long as there has been a town. In 1883, the Caller was started in a frame building at 310 North Chaparral, now the site of Green's Jewelers....

 approximately 12 hours after the incident.

On February 14, some of the lead birdshot lodged in Whittington's heart caused a minor heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

. Doctors did not plan to remove all the pellets from Whittington's body. They estimated that there were "less than 150 or 200" pellets lodged in his body immediately after the shooting, and about 30 pieces of shot will remain inside him for the rest of his life.

On February 17, Whittington made a public statement that "We all assume certain risks in whatever we do. Whatever activities we pursue and regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen." After being released from the hospital, he apologized to the Vice President and his family: "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week."

Following the incident, Whittington returned to private life and refused many media offers for interviews. In an October 2010 issue of the Washington Post, he broke his silence about the shooting. Whittington told the paper that although many media outlets had described Cheney and him as "good friends", the pair had only met one another three times in 30 years, and had never been hunting before. The Washington Post article also claimed that Cheney had violated "two basic rules of hunting safety": he failed to ensure that he had a clear shot before firing, and fired without being able to see blue sky beneath his target. The paper also reported that Cheney has still neither publicly nor privately apologized to Whittington for the shooting.

External links

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