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36


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 36, February 1, 1998

Jim Bohan: A Personal Remembrance

By L. Neil Smith
lneil@lneilsmith.org

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

          The Old Blue Howler is dead.
          James Frederick Bohan of Yoakum, Texas, passed away Thursday, Jan. 29, at his computer keyboard of a heart attack. He was 52 years old.
          Many people knew Jim Bohan (pronounced as if it were written "Bowen") by the "handle" that appeared in one form or another in his various e-mail addresses: "Lobo Azul", or "Blue Wolf". He was a singularly valuable individual, a valiant freedom fighter, and a great man who will be sorely missed, both as a public figure and a personal friend.
          For my family, for me and my wife Cathy and my daughter Rylla, this is a bitterly painful loss. Jim was one of those colorful, larger-than-life personalities of whom there are all too few in the pitiable weenieocracy that America has become. As Robert Heinlein advised us all, Jim took "big bites" of life and knew without having been told that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. He was a true son of the Texas prairie who reflexively displayed that "you paid for the drinks, I'll pay for the Cadillacs" attitude that Heinlein described.
          Although we often disagreed on strategy and tactics -- my recent suggestion that libertarian candidates "pick off the stragglers" among Republican office holders who were elected by a 5% margin or less made him pretty mad at me -- one principle we never disagreed about was the central political importance of the individual right to own and carry weapons.
          We didn't know Jim well in some ways -- I had to get his age and middle name from his aunt, who called me with the terrible news -- but he and I liked each other from the outset of our acquaintance several years ago and respected one another as professionals. He took an immediate shine to my womenfolk when he met them at a Second Amendment leadership conference in Denver and never failed to ask about them afterward.
          No more will we swap insults, jokes, and other messages over what, to a large degree, was home to both of us, the internet. No more will I have what almost amounted to real-time conversations with him, notes back and forth for hours at a time as each of us tended to his other e-mail. No more will we have the long telephone conversations that both of us used to enjoy and that became more frequent last year when I was offline for so long owing to the flood. Whenever I went too long without sending e-mail, he always called to see if we were all right.
          As I say, the loss was bitter and personal. But there's another aspect to it. Jim was a pivotal participant in DeFoley8, the effort that set an historical precedent by successfully deposing then House Speaker Tom Foley as punishment for that politician's turnabout on victim disarmament. He went on to be a cofounder of NOBAN -- a mailing list on the internet grimly dedicated to repeal of the Clinton and Brady gun laws -- which he was proud to say amounted to the largest, most powerful, and diverse political coalition ever put together.
          Jim was one of those background movers-and-shakers no historian ever makes an adequate accounting of, important and well respected in the highest councils of the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association, both of which he served energetically in many ways, especially as a grass-roots conduit to those organizations, both of which have lost touch with their constituencies and reality itself. I knew if I wanted NRA leadership, or even key Republicans, to be aware of something I said, I could tell Jim and sooner or later they'd hear it.
          An established master of the gruff, curmudgeonly, marshmallow- centered style of charm, he genuinely had little patience for fools. He didn't have much use for libertarians, either, having been put off by some of our liberaloid type in southern California, and I was never able to convince him that I am more typical of the breed than they are.
          Jim regarded himself as a practical man. He was remarkable in that he maintained amiable relations with leaders of the GOP and the NRA (all of whose foibles and limitations he had no illusion about -- any more than he had illusions about mine), and at the same time remained in touch with rugged individualists like me, a libertarian disgusted with both groups, yet never gave up a micron of his own hard-edged principles. His low voice and soft Texas accent made an interesting and effective counterpoint to his imposing physical appearance.
          In addition to his other accomplishments, Jim was a cattle man, running a spread that has been in his family for generations, and an oil man, as well. He wrote novels that have been compared with the works of Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarrantino, but which are so forthright and true to reality that he was still trying to sell them, with the help of a New York agent, at the time of his death. He also wrote screenplays, the option money for one of which, he said, kept his ranch afloat during the long Texas drought of a few years back. He even had an acting credit, having appeared briefly in American Grafitti.
          He meant to write an investigative book dealing with corruption in high places that should have been exposed long ago, but I never learned how far he got. The undertaking would have been very, very dangerous.
          Jim was one of a kind, a man who can never be replaced. The Republican Party and National Rifle Association have a long, long way to go before they're worthy of the love and loyalty he lavished on them.
          And I will miss him terribly.


L. Neil Smith is the publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise


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