St. Louis author writes book on Limbaugh Sr.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rush Limbaugh III is probably the world's best known conservative commentator, and he's certainly the king of conservative talk radio. But Rush's grandfather, the first Rush H. Limbaugh, is a larger-than-life figure in the Limbaugh's hometown of Cape Girardeau.

Now a St. Louis-based author has written a biography of the elder Limbaugh, and he'll be appearing here Thursday to sign copies of "The Original Rush Limbaugh: Lawyer, Legislator and Civil Libertarian."

Dennis Boman, an attorney formerly of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Law at St. Louis University Law School, said in a telephone interview that the biography took about a year and a half to complete.

"I was very thorough," he said of his book, which was published in June by the University of Missouri Press. "Obviously, I had to spend a lot of time in Cape Girardeau doing research. Each visit led me to a new avenue of discovery because there was so much to the life and career of Mr. Limbaugh."

Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. was a renowned Cape Girardeau attorney whose law practice ended at his death in 1996 at the age of 104. His legal career spanned almost 80 years, during which time he argued cases not only in local venues but also before the Missouri Supreme Court, the Internal Revenue Service and the National Labor Relations Board. The federal courthouse and a law firm in Cape Girardeau bear his name, and he was the father of Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr., an attorney and civic leader. In addition to being the grandfather of Rush H. Limbaugh III, he was also grandfather to political commentator and author David Limbaugh and federal district judge Stephen Limbaugh.

But, according to Boman, Rush Limbaugh Sr. is a somewhat obscure person outside of Cape Girardeau.

"For someone who had such a remarkable career, he's not particularly well known statewide. That's the main reason I wanted to write about him, to let people know that in addition to serving Cape Girardeau, Mr. Limbaugh served his state, and country, quite well."

Judge Stephen Limbaugh approved of Boman's effort. "It came as a surprise when Dennis approached us about a biography, but I can speak for the whole family when I say that we're happy with his work. He's a fine fellow."

Bowman recounted the life and legal career of Rush Limbaugh Sr., who was born in rural Bollinger County on his family's farm and admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1916. After starting his own law practice in 1923, Limbaugh served one term in the Missouri House of Representatives from 1931 to 1933. Boman said it was an eventful two years.

"He was a nonpartisan, pragmatic legislator," Bowman said. "A Republican, he earned the respect of the opposition across the aisle. He led efforts to fairly distribute the state tax burden, establish the Missouri Highway Patrol and construct state roads."

Limbaugh was also at the forefront during the impeachment of Treasurer Larry Brunk. Named as one of the House managers who presented the case against Brunk, Limbaugh's legal prowess was on display as was his impressive memory.

"As a House manager, Mr. Limbaugh covered every angle of the impeachment and his colleagues looked up to him," Boman said. "Remarkably, he presented his lengthy opening statement from memory. Mr. Brunk's attorney read from a pad."

After serving his single term in the House, Limbaugh returned to his law practice but was appointed in 1935 as judge in the infamous St. Louis case of Ware v. Muench, in which a young woman sued for the return of her infant son. The case gained nationwide attention, and Boman said that Limbaugh, a man who didn't seek attention, certainly had it thrust upon him.

"It was certainly a high-profile case," Bowman said. "It was difficult for him to withstand the St. Louis dailies that were constantly trying to quote him and snap his picture. As someone from a more rural setting who had never courted the spotlight, it had to be almost unbearable for Mr. Limbaugh."

Limbaugh resumed his law practice after the Ware case, and in 1955 became the president of the Missouri Bar, serving a one-year term. But in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him as a goodwill ambassador to India.

But Limbaugh's dedication to service wasn't without personal hardship, as evidenced during his membership on the Missouri Commission on Human Rights during the early 1960s.

"The commission was created to help implement new civil-rights legislation and court decisions that affected the struggle for equality in Missouri," Boman said. "When Mr. Limbaugh served on the commission, he was steadfastly on the side of desegregation and equal rights for minorities. This did not endear him to certain elements of the state opposed to his efforts, but he was fearless in the face of death threats designed to keep him from enforcing equal rights in Missouri."

The Thursday, Limbaugh Sr.'s 121st birthday, book signing will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in Cape Girardeau.

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

3049 William St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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