Sunday, July 16, 2006


Paraphrasing Shakespeare: "Friends, Houstonians, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to praise Enron's Caesar, not to bury his good name." And so it went, when public luminaries and family members spoke during Ken Lay's recent Houston memorial service.

The most ludicrous eulogy was given by the Rev. Bill Lawson, pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Chruch, one of Houston's largest black churches. It must be noted that Ken Lay has contributed significant amounts of money to Rev. Lawson's church and to a charitable organization which the good reverend founded. Also, Rev. Lawson was often seen at Ken Lay's side during his fraud trial and accompanied him to hear the jury's verdict. His frequent appearances with Ken Lay during the trial and the eulogy he presented can only be seen for what they were - paybacks to his patron saint.

What did Rev. Lawson say during his eulogy? Well, for one thing, he compared Ken Lay to Jesus, to President John F. Kennedy, and to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., explaining that all had been villified during their lives only to be judged by History as great men. For another, he likened Ken Lay's trial to the lynching of James Byrd, the black victim of white racist thugs who tied him to their vehicle, drove off, and dragged him to his death. The good reverend said, "Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was, but I'm angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching." During several subsequent television appearances, he explained that Lay was lynched because the trial judge refused to grant him a change of venue, refused to separate his trial from that of Jeff Skilling, and refused his lawyers' requests for more trial preparation time.

I'll say this for Rev. Lawson. By comparing them to Ken Lay, he trashed Jesus, JFK and MLK, demoting them from saints to crooks with a single stroke of the brush. As for the "lynching," Rev. Lawson should know better. James Byrd did not hire the best defense lawyers that money could buy, and he never received a jury trial. Lynching, which constitutes punishment absent of a trial, has a long history in Ameirca. In our early history many people were "tarred and feathered" for what was considered unacceptable behavior. In the Old Wild West, many miscreants were whipped or hanged without benefit of trial, or after a quick trial by a "kangaroo court." And, during the years from the Civil War to Dr. King's assassination, many blacks were beaten to death, shot, or hanged by white mobs, sometimes for crimes, but more often for the most innocuous of perceived offenses. Thus, by any conceivable measure, Ken Lay was not the victim of a lynching.

Ken Lay was a good man who turned bad. Consumed by greed, Enron's Caesar was instrumental in wiping out the life savings of his loyal employees, while defrauding Enron's investors out of 65 billion dollars. He touted Enron's stock to his employees and other investors, even after the impending collapse of Enron became apparent, while enriching himself by dumping his shares. Neither history nor Rev. Lawson will resurrect his reputation as a good man. Ken Lay's legacy will be that of a greedy corporate crook who was defiant and unrepentant to the bitter end. Sorry, Rev. Lawson, but there will be no second coming of your patron saint Ken's honorable reputation.

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