Texas journalist Jeremy Pafford recalls his only face-to-face meeting with Rick Perry. It was in 1998, and the then-agriculture commissioner wanted to know, “Where’s the Aggie?” — referring to the reporter who usually covered him.
Pafford explains his colleague’s absence:
That reporter, while working on his graduate degree, was working with chemicals in a lab that somehow made him sick, and he didn’t recover. He unexpectedly died, leaving behind a pregnant wife. It was a tragic reminder of how short our time on Earth can be, and now a month or so later I was breaking that news to our ag commissioner.
“Um, Mr. Perry, he unfortunately died about a month ago,” is what I remember starting out saying. Perry asked for some details, and I did the best I could, but the conversation derailed whatever the light-hearted ceremony was I was assigned to cover. Everything was off-script from there, and Perry isn’t good at going off-script — as everyone in the country now knows.