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Honoring The Memory Of Mr. William N. Yeager, Jr.

Rep. Jo Bonner

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Mr. Speaker, Mobile and indeed the entire State of Alabama recently lost a dear friend, and I rise today to honor him and pay tribute to his memory.

William N. Yeager, Jr., known simply as ``Bill'' to his many friends and family, was a devoted family man and dedicated community leader throughout his entire life. At the time of his death, he was the president of Timbes and Yeager, Inc., one of the most respected names in advertising in the entire State of Alabama.

Bill's company, although small in size, was both experienced and highly successful in all areas of advertising, public relations and marketing. Using his 50-plus years in the industry, Bill Yeager was one of those rare masters of his trade who, as the old saying goes, could truly sell ice to an Eskimo. And in so doing, Bill quickly earned the reputation as the ``go to'' man both in the world of business and the world of politics, especially throughout southwest Alabama.

To know Bill Yeager was to like Bill and to like him was to respect him, even if, on occasion, you found yourself on the opposite side of his talent and genius.

But make no mistake, Bill was also a teacher in every sense of the word and those who worked with him learned much. Moreover, the more you were around Bill the more you found him to be a kind, generous person who, while strong in his personal views and convictions, was also willing to make room for other thoughts and ideas that were not his own.

Those who worked with Bill, as I had the pleasure of doing for more than 22 years, came to know him as a man who wore many different hats. He had his hand in everything, and he was constantly in motion because he simply didn't have time to slow down; he had too many things yet to accomplish, too many friends yet to help.

And help he did.

Over the years, Bill served as president of Sales and Marketing Executives of Mobile, Junior Achievement, and Mobile Toastmaster Club. He was also a past board member and senior member of the Mobile Kiwanis Club.

But perhaps few things in life meant more to Bill Yeager than his beloved University of Alabama. Without a doubt, Bill was crimson and white through and through. He was one of the real leaders in the Red Elephant Club, as well as serving as president of the Mobile Chapter and district vice president of the University's National Alumni Association. Bill was also a member of the President's Cabinet.

This past football season was the first time in memory that Bill was not up in the stands of Bryant-Denny Stadium, pulling the Crimson Tide through to another victory.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ``The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.''

Well, Bill Yeager was constantly giving . . . giving of his energy, his ideas and his talents to the people--and the things--that he loved.

First and foremost, Bill loved his work. He loved the people with whom he worked in his trade, and he considered both his clients, and the associates with whom he came in contact every day, a part of his extended family.

And Bill worked his heart out--every day he was at his office--trying to think of some new way, some better way he could help his friends succeed.

Fortunately, for those of us who knew Bill professionally, we also knew he was a master of his art, the best of the best. Without question, Bill Yeager was truly an institution, the likes of which we may never see again. And make no mistake, Bill's legacy of success--and goodness--will most certainly stand the test of time.

Bill Yeager loved Mobile; he loved Alabama; and he loved his Country. He was as patriotic a man as I ever knew and he was never ashamed to tear up when Old Glory was presented or the Star Spangled Banner was played.

Finally, there is not a person who ever sought public office in south Alabama not one--whether they were the beneficiary of Bill's brilliant mind or on the ``receiving end'' of his considerable talents--who loved Mobile--or was willing to do more to help Mobile and south Alabama move forward--more than Bill Yeager. That list includes congressmen, senators, mayors, governors and practically every other elected position on the ballot.

In life, there are always the givers and the takers.

Well, without a doubt, Bill Yeager was a giver.

But not only was he generous in spirit and good to the core, he had an unmistakable quality that is, sadly, becoming more and more rare with each passing day.

You see, Bill treated each and every person equally--with the same degree of courtesy and respect--from the people who sweep the floors, to the president of the company.

Moreover, he made everyone feel that their contribution--be it large or small had value and worth.

Finally, Bill Yeager loved his friends, his church and his family, and not necessarily in that order.

He was grounded in the faith of his salvation, and he had a twinkle in his eye whenever he talked about his beloved Betty and their children and grandchildren.

That, Mr. Speaker, is what made Bill Yeager so special and it is why I am using this opportunity to honor him today. In the end, he was a great teacher, a man with an endless amount of energy, one who had an amazing mind and an awesome spirit and finally, a man who was the epitome of a true friend.

Mr. Speaker, one of Bill's many admirers, Chip Drago, a longtime writer with the Press-Register and currently the editor of the Mobile Bay Times, penned the following tribute to Bill shortly after his death. With your permission, I would like to add Chip's piece to the Congressional Record.

``Many, many times at one political gathering or another, the scene was identical. Bill Yeager was easy to spot. Tall, thin guy. Dark suit. Red tie. Eyeglasses. Every hair in place. Standing on the fringe of the crowd. Right arm across his chest, hand tucked under the armpit, other hand against his left cheek, Jack Benny-like. `Where's Rochester?', I'd say. It got to be a standing joke. For a quarter of a century, half my life, a third of his. Yeager positioned himself on the periphery purposely, usually on the highest ground available. To see, not to be seen. He perched like a bird of prey surveying a field or a river. He wanted to see it all while his client/candidate was being seen. His production, not his performance. Yeager could be forceful and he could dominate a scene but rarely in public. He had enthusiasm, confidence and energy which were the byproducts of his success over more than 50 years in advertising and political consulting. As a consequence, he held strong opinions about campaign strategy. Most candidates gladly followed his advice. Others gradually adopted it. Some resisted. Yeager strove mightily to win them over to his view, not because his ego required him to be the boss but because he wanted the candidate to win. He wanted it for the candidate, for his family, for his friends and supporters and, yes, for himself. Sometimes, not often, the candidate could not be persuaded and Yeager accepted it, reluctantly because he knew he was right but also willingly because he never forgot that it was the candidate's campaign, not the consultant's. He lost some. He won most. Yeager was probably as or more competitive than any candidate he ever represented. And that list is truly breathtaking. From U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards in the 1960s to City Councilman Ben Brooks' state Senate District 35 campaign this fall. What fell in between and Yeager touched in one way or another represents the history of politics and government in the Mobile area since the closing of Brookley Field. Yeager had one quality that some thought endearing and others found amusing. He could have a dubious view of one elected official or another, particularly if the person was causing problems for another official who was a Yeager client. But let time pass and the suspect official become a Yeager client, well, the transformation was remarkable. What was once tawdry and dull suddenly shone. As seriously as he took the needs of his clients, Yeager could laugh at himself a little bit, especially as he got older. But make no mistake; if you were a media person, Yeager was all about advancing the best interests of his clients. He believed that what he saw and what he heard filtered through the knowledge gained over the years was ultimately what gave weight to whatever he might say or recommend. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Use them in that proportion, in that order. So there he is on the edge of the crowd, arm across his chest, hand captured under the armpit, other hand pressed to his cheek, eyes intent on the flow of folks in and out, here and there, who's with whom, sometimes leaning in to the person standing next to him, half listening, his eyes not leaving the crowd. But say something worth hearing and there were subtle changes. His neck craned in a little closer. His eyes left the crowd and focused on the speaker. His lower lip jutted out. You had his attention. Time will pass. Candidates will come and candidates will go. Campaigns will be run. There will be fundraisers, receptions, kickoff announcements, press conferences and election nights. It is hard to imagine that Yeager won't be there just outside the frame taking it all in. ``Where's Rochester?'' Mr. Speaker, William N. Yeager, Jr. is survived by his wonderful wife, Betty; three daughters, Sherry Yeager, Susan Coffey and Cynthia Hilburn; one brother, Dr. Charles Yeager; six grandchildren and countless other relatives and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time.