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The Greater Houston Coalition for Justice

October 25, 2019

Houston, Texas

Response to Dedication of Bridge Builder Award

On behalf of my Father and our family, I would like to express our appreciation for this thoughtful remembrance. Dad died almost fifty years ago. He was a man of great humility and wisdom who would note that he was not the important thing to be remembered, but the ideals that we all share. To him, individuals and events were important, but ideas are what transcend generations and defined us.

In describing these ideals, it is probably easiest to show how they were formed in life where we could find similarities in our own. One of the most important things that he emphasized to me throughout my life was a story of when Dad was a young man. His Father, my Grandfather Henry W. Dippel, had started the Brenham Wholesale, and it had been a successful business until the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Grandfather Henry had to let half of his people go, and Dad had to come back from the University of Texas to help with the business. The first job my Grandfather gave Dad was to take a dull knife and make some “not too bad cuts” in flour sacks and to do some limited cracks on eggs. Dad thought the pressure had gotten to his Father and he asked him why he would damage good merchandise in such a difficult time. His Father told him that it was the most important lesson he could learn about life was how you treat other men. The people he had to let go came back every other day looking for work and there would be none for a long time. But they were hurting and they had helped him build the business so he was obligated to them. If he gave them the flour and eggs, half would not take it because of their pride, and the other half would lose dignity. By letting them help him move some of the produce he could give them some of the “damaged goods” for which he would be appreciative. Dignity, and understanding of others matter.

He became a Sheriff because as a boy in the 1920’s his friends at school told him how his Father was standing against a group said to represent the Ku Klux Klan and would be tarred and feathered. He worried about it for a long time but his Dad explained that he had built his business selling to a number of storekeepers in four different languages. Communicating with them he appreciated that they were not that different, but deserved to be treated equally, and not to worry about the situation. His Father was more than capable of handling a situation, but he pointed out to Dad that he worried about others who were not. He became Sheriff in part because he wanted to take care of people. When World War II came he believed greatly in America’s values and volunteered, but would not be accepted because as Sheriff he held a position that was exempt. He resigned and the War was an experience that shaped his appreciation of the need for people of good faith coming together to accomplish a greater goal. Family, community, and shared values set the opportunity in life and defined its satisfaction.

In that sense, he looked upon law enforcement as being the end of a process, not the beginning of the problems. Law enforcement was a final act in a process that began much earlier within society and he worked with the community to build its institutions and its trust. Preventive situations by a strong bond in society, was better than trying to treat symptoms at the end. To him, it was his job to protect the people and to do that, they had to have a faith in law enforcement that it was their friend, not their judge, it was their protector with whom they needed to cooperate and work as a partner. He spent a lifetime supporting law enforcement through lobbying for grants for law enforcement in Austin, through organizing networks of police through innumerable gatherings in Washington County, and in focusing on the importance of integrity and justice within law enforcement. The Texas Peacemaker Award given by the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas was based on his nickname “The Peacemaker” given to him by his friends the Texas Rangers and embodies this unity of community.

He as an intimidating figure at 6’3 and 240 pounds with a look similar to John Wayne. Nonetheless, He told his deputies that you should meet every man with a handshake and a smile and with sincerity. He did note that wearing a gun helped. You could have a skepticism and look to see whether their hands were covered in scars to determine whether or not you may have a problem, but if you converse with an honorable firmness, usually you might find the situation may be ignorance or personal affront to dignity more than evil. He had particular concern for young people who he tried, when they had problems, to resurrect through conversations with parents more the penal system where records changed lives. Even before he had children, he helped promote the Boy Scouts of America for the youth of Washington County to give positive alternatives, and after he retired, and became a banker he focused in many cases on helping finance churches. To him, the observations of Frederic Bastiat that culture creates the law, not the law the culture was fundamentally true, as was Bastiat’s observation that it is important to look beyond immediate problems to think through consequences of actions in analyzing approaches.

He looked at “discipline in society” much as it is described in the three cultures I conveyed in The Language of Conscience. The first is the Rule of Law. It is what we all agree among ourselves to abide with penalties if we do not. The second is the culture of reciprocity. It is the Golden Rule of Christ, the Silver Rule of Confucius, the unwritten law C.S. Lewis that we each expect of each other. If I do something for you within the peer pressure of society, I expect you to do it for me, and we should have our codes of honor and chivalry among ourselves. The third culture is the great culture of Compassion which is that of the great philosophers and the great religions. It is when I care enough about responsibility and refine myself in conscience over convenience that I do things for you not expecting anything in return by which I define myself and my character. Life is about refinement of heart.

In the world today, we are all in silos that become ever smaller because of the nature of media and its algorithms specializing what we hear and see. We may be a multicultural world, but we are separated much like the proverbial salad bowl described in academia where toleration and relativity are the oils that grease parts that pass. Instead what we have to build is the melting pot in society where we are all based together on conscience. Martin Luther King saw such a melting pot based on character. Cesar Chavez looked much on dignity. Gandhi, the great religions and the founding fathers, all looked upon life similarly, with conscience over convenience as the organizing principle. That is first accomplished by building bridges of understanding and communication silos.

The goal of some in life is economic wealth, of others political power, and some in elevating culture over the power of economics and politics - a life of service to others. In remembering Dad with this Award, we simply remember that each of us in life may not achieve great things in the eyes of the world, but we can achieve great lives by how we live our life and focusing our efforts with building bridges that look to the benefit of future society and our children.

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