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Clinton Goes Home For Funeral

Forming a wistful 75-mile caravan from Memphis to this "City With a Smile," a team of fellow former Arkansans went home with President Clinton on Saturday to bury his former aide and "fatherly adviser."

The president delivered the eulogy at an afternoon funeral service for William Maurice Smith Jr., 77, chief of staff in Clinton's gubernatorial office, who died Thursday night after a long battle with emphysema.

"Farewell, old friend," Clinton said, recalling Smith's own consolation to him when Clinton lost his governor's seat in 1980. "I say to you what you said to me several years ago: 'It'll be all right. You've done good. We'll be together again before you know it'."

The president saluted his former mentor as someone who "loved a good fight but he never sought to destroy his adversary."

At the Wynne Presbyterian Church, where two little boys with silver pinwheels waited to greet the presidential motorcade, Clinton and some four dozen family and friends sat down to a potluck buffet of ham, chicken casserole and pea salad before heading to a graveside service at Cogbill Cemetery.

"We laughed coming over," Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said after the long ride with Clinton from the Memphis airport. "We had a good time, because Maurice would want that."

Clinton last spoke to Smith by telephone on Thursday, hours before he died. On a respirator, Smith had someone hold the phone to his ear.

Smith's alliance with Clinton dated to his first winning political campaign for state attorney general in 1976. The wealthy banker and farmer later helped finance Clinton's gubernatorial campaigns and was described by colleagues as a stabilizing "elder statesmanlike" figure and "fatherly adviser" to the young governor, whose own father died before Clinton was born.

Saturday's trip marked the third time since last year that the president returned to his home state to mourn the passing of the generation before him. During the summer of 1997, Clinton buried both his Uncle Buddy and Hilary Ward Jones, another early political helpmate, in their respective hometowns in rural Arkansas.

As Air Force One headed south toward this Eastern Arkansas hamlet dubbed "City With a Smile," White House spokesman Barry Toiv described the president's mood as sober.

Gesturing to the jet's guest cabin, Toiv added, "But he's enjoying having the Arkansans up there."

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, keeping to her previously arranged schedule, was in Boston on the latest leg of her "Save American Treasures" tour to promote historical preservation.

Forming a wistful 75-mile caravan from Memphis to this "City With a Smile," a team of fellow former Arkansans went home with President Clinton on Saturday to bury his former aide and "fatherly adviser."

The president delivered the eulogy at an afternoon funeral service for William Maurice Smith Jr., 77, chief of staff in Clinton's gubernatorial office, who died Thursday night after a long battle with emphysema.

"Farewell, old friend," Clinton said, recalling Smith's own consolation to him when Clinton lost his governor's seat in 1980. "I say to you what you said to me several years ago: 'It'll be all right. You've done good. We'll be together again before you know it."'

The president saluted his former mentor as someone who "loved a good fight but he never sought to destroy his adversary."

At the Wynne Presbyterian Church, where two little boys with silver pinwheels waited to greet the presidential motorcade, Clinton and some four dozen family and friends sat down to a potluck buffet of ham, chicken casserole and pea salad before heading to a graveside service at Cogbill Cemetery.

"We laughed coming over," Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said after the long ride with Clinton from the Memphis airport. "We had a good time, because Maurice would want that."

Clinton last spoke to Smith by telephone on Thursday, hours before he died. On a respirator, Smith had someone hold the phone to his ear.

Smith's alliance with Clinton dated to his first winning political campaign for state attorney general in 1976. The wealthy banker and farmer later helped finance Clinton's gubernatorial campaigns and was described by colleagues as a stabilizing "elder statesmanlike" figure and "fatherly adviser" to the young governor, whose own father died before Clinton was born.

Saturday's trip marked the third time since last year that the president returned to his home state to mourn the passing of the generation before him. During the summer of 1997, Clinton buried both his Uncle Buddy and Hilary Ward Jones, another early political helpmate, in their respective hometowns in rural Arkansas.

As Air Force One headed south toward this Eastern Arkansas hamlet dubbed "City With a Smile," White House spokesman Barry Toiv described the president's mood as sober.

Gesturing to the jet's guest cabin, Toiv added, "But he's enjoying having the Arkansans up there."

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, keeping to her previously arranged schedule, was in Boston on the latest leg of her "Save American Treasures" tour to promote historical preservation.

Written by Sandra Sobieraj