The Washington Post

Larry Hagman’s epitaph: ‘Evil does good’

Larry Hagman, left, as J.R. Ewing and Patrick Duffy as his nice-guy brother Bobby in the TV series “Dallas.” (Zade Rosenthal)

DALLAS – The invitation beckoning donors to a glittering launch party for the Larry Hagman Foundation  just last month lived up to the hype that preceded it.

“Evil Does Good’’ were the words emblazoned alongside the iconic image of Hagman, aka J.R. Ewing, in  the cowboy hat and bushy eyebrows that defined his signature role as an actor.

Given the timing, less than two months before his death Friday at age 81, Hagman could well have guessed those words would become his epitaph.

Indeed, another famous Dallas resident (hint: 43rd POTUS) might have called J.R. an “evil-doer.’’ But Hagman made the most of the J.R. persona for the past three decades, moving into the Dallas social circles inhabited by the city’s top business, political and philanthropic leaders.

The soiree last month, which drew a bunch of Dallas A-listers, was hosted by Lisa Blue Baron, a prominent lawyer and widow of national Democratic powerhouse Fred Baron.

Baron, who was the founding board member of the Larry Hagman Foundation, said in an e-mail Saturday that “Larry told me he always wanted to give back to the city that made him famous.

“His focus was the combination of underprivileged kids and the arts,’’ Baron said. “I truly believe Larry felt this was one of the most important things he did before his death.’’

Indeed, as he reprised the role of a ruthless oil baron on the reboot of TV’s “Dallas’’ this season, Hagman seemed to have embraced the persona of J.R. full-time.

What might have started as a parody of a back-stabbing Texas oilman in the 1980s had arguably become a part of Hagman, who made numerous appearances around North Texas in full J.R. regalia.

He was in Dallas for Thanksgiving with his family, and he was here when he passed away.

“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas re-enacting the iconic role he loved most. Larry’s family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday,’’ said a statement on his Web site Saturday. “When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for.”

Hagman had a legitimate claim to Lone Star heritage, noted one obituary, as the “Texas-born son of Broadway actress Mary Martin.’’

What a fitting tribute it would be if the real oil barons in Texas spent their final days not only doing work they love, but also creating a pathway for disadvantaged kids to enter their profession, as Hagman did with his foundation.

Baron called the actor  “the kindest, most compassionate person I ever met. ‘’ And that, of course, is the best epitaph of all.

Lori Stahl is a freelance writer in Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @LoriStahl.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.