David A. Hartman passed from this life on November 24, at the age of 79. Though it has been some time since his writing appeared in these pages, Mr. Hartman’s influence will be felt as long as Chronicles remains in print. As his close friend, collaborator, and fellow board member Tom Pauken rightly noted in his eulogy at Mr. Hartman’s memorial service on December 5, David Hartman’s leadership as chairman of the board of directors guided The Rockford Institute through a pivotal decade, and it is no exaggeration to say that, without the generous support of the Hartman Foundation (run by Mr. Hartman, his brothers, and his son Doug) over several of those years, Chronicles would not exist today.
A Connecticut Yankee who spent much of his life in his adopted state of Texas, Mr. Hartman was a man who combined a relentlessly probing mind with a nearly indomitable will. His daughter, Diana, recalled with fondness her father’s many aphorisms; one that we heard many times was that Mr. Hartman believed in the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Yet he never withheld his support from Chronicles when he disagreed with something we published; he would much rather fight it out over a Dewar’s, punctuating his points with his ever-present cigar. And he was never afraid to change his mind: Having come round to Chronicles’ position on immigration, he financed the production and publication of the 2007 Chronicles Press volume Immigration and the American Future. An earlier book, Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario, was a multiyear labor of love for Mr. Hartman.
Known by many for his later life as a banker—he took a failing Texas bank and not only turned it around but grew it in size tenfold over a decade—and as a philanthropist (he and his wife, Claudette, were great patrons of the arts in Austin), Mr. Hartman never forgot his roots in manufacturing. He spent much of his final productive years developing and promoting a tax-reform plan to replace the corporate income tax with a border-adjusted value-added tax, designed to undo the damage that the one-sided pursuit of free trade had done to American manufacturing. While various congressmen gave the cold shoulder to Mr. Hartman’s proposal, three of the candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump—have now adopted (in various forms) what Tom Pauken has dubbed “The Hartman Plan.”
Here in Chronicles’ hometown of Rockford, Illinois, itself devastated by the decline of manufacturing, Mr. Hartman once held a roomful of local manufacturers in rapt attention for nearly two hours, describing his plan in intricate detail. But as impressive as that performance was, my fondest memory of Mr. Hartman will always be what happened later that evening. We held another event for the general public, at which I was his opening act. I had slaved for weeks over a speech describing the rise and fall of Rockford as a manufacturing town, and the challenges that we now face. When David took the podium, he looked down at his speech—a simplified version of his plan for that audience—and set it aside. For the next hour, he spoke extemporaneously, from the heart, about his life, and his family, and his love for this country, and how his plan was designed to return America to her former greatness. By the time he finished, no one remembered a word I had uttered, nor should they have. Mr. Hartman had said everything that needed to be said.
Well done, thou good and faithful servant. May you rest in peace.