DALLAS — Nothing got done in North Texas without Ray Hutchison, friends said. As one of the most influential municipal bond attorneys in the state, he was behind some of the area’s biggest public projects.
"There's no question. He's been involved in every major and I think every minor public finance project there is," said Ben Brooks, Hutchison’s law partner and long-time friend.
Hutchison died Sunday at age 81.
He wasn't just a bond attorney but a creative strategist who could bring competing sides together, Brooks added.
Hutchison and former Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff lured the Washington Senators to North Texas in the early 1970s to become the Texas Rangers.
"One of the great stories he tells,” Brooks recalled. "They're in there with the American League owners and trying to negotiate to get the Senators to move down here. There's a knock on the door and a fellow brings in a message. The chairman says, 'We need to stop the meeting; I need to read this.' And it says: 'Please keep the national pastime in the nation's capital. Signed - Richard M. Nixon.'"
But despite that note from the White House, Brooks said Hutchison was still able to get the deal done.
In addition, as a bond attorney, Hutchison put the deal together to build Texas Stadium in Irving; the new AT&T Stadium in Arlington; the Texas Motor Speedway; Reunion Arena; and DART, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system.
"Ray was the lawyer for DART before DART was created,” Brooks said. “He, in essence, wrote the statute and was involved in the effort to create DART.”
One of Hutchison’s biggest projects was the legal work to issue bonds to begin building what was originally called Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport in the late 1960s. In fact, the first bond used to build the airport is framed in Hutchison’s downtown office.
He was a very detailed person, Brooks recalled.
"Having worked for him for literally 42 years, I could work on some document that would be 100 pages, and — I promise you — he could find the comma that needed to be in there," he explained.
Ray Hutchison grew up in Pleasant Grove and originally wanted to be a mechanic, according to Brooks, but the military offered a college scholarship so he enlisted.
Hutchison graduated from Southern Methodist University and was a two-term state legislator, where he met his wife, Kay Bailey.
Hutchison went on to lead the state’s Republican Party and then ran unsuccessfully against Bill Clements in the 1978 Republican primary for governor.
In recent years, he was perhaps better known as the spouse of a U.S. Senator. Both he and his wife worked at Bracewell & Guiliani’s Dallas office at Fountain Place.
"People who didn't know Ray before don't realize it was 'Ray Hutchison and his wife Kay.' In the last many years, it's become 'Senator Hutchison and her husband what's-his-name?' And he was totally fine with that," Brooks said with a chuckle.
Hutchison had two grown children from a previous marriage. He and Kay Bailey adopted two more.
"With Sen. Hutchison's responsibilities in Washington, Ray became Mr. Mom," Brooks said. "For those who see Ray as a tough negotiator and a hard-nosed lawyer, it's hard to believe he drove those kids to school every morning and picked them up from school."
At 81, Hutchison had slowed down, but still stayed plugged-in and showed up at the law firm.
But on Sunday, his wife rushed Hutchison to UT Southwestern Medical Center after he complained of shortness of breath.
Doctors there couldn’t save him. He died of heart complications.
Hutchison’s funeral will be at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas at 11 a.m. Thursday.
He will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin late Friday morning.