Harry Whittington, the man whom former Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot while hunting for quail on a Texas ranch 17 years ago, has died. He was 95.

Whittington died at his home in Austin on Saturday, a family friend, Karl Rove, said Monday.

Before the accidental shooting thrust Whittington into the national spotlight, the lawyer had long been known for helping turn the Republican Party in Texas into the dominant political force it is today and for being the man people turned to. governors when they needed to clean up troubled state agencies.

Rove, an influential Republican strategist and former adviser to former President George W. Bush, said Whittington was «a man of tremendous integrity and deep compassion» whom leaders called upon to «important assignments.»

Whittington and others were hunting with Cheney on the sprawling Armstrong Ranch in south Texas on February 11, 2006, when Cheney, while aiming at a bird, struck Whittington, who was 78 years old at the time. The accident was not publicly reported until the next day, when the ranch owner called the local newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and told the paper what had happened.

Whittington was sprayed with buckshot in the face, neck and chest and suffered a minor heart attack because buckshot became lodged near his heart. When he was released from the hospital about a week after the accident, he said «accidents happen and will happen» and apologized to Cheney, saying he was «deeply sorry for everything» Cheney and her family had to deal with afterwards. of the incident.

Cheney was criticized for breaking a cardinal rule of hunting — that someone with a gun must make sure they know what they’re shooting at before pulling the trigger — and for not immediately going public with what happened.

The accident also generated countless jokes. Jay Leno, then host of «The Tonight Show» on NBC, joked that Cheney would take advantage of the accident for the upcoming Valentine’s Day with a new cologne called «Duck.» Billionaire Bill Gates greeted his audience at a conference by saying: “I am very happy to be here. My other invitation was to go quail hunting with Dick Cheney.»

In an interview with Fox News days after the accident, Cheney said it was «one of the worst days of my life at the time.»

Cheney said the crash happened after Whittington left the hunting party to take a downed bird to cover. Cheney said Whittington was appropriately dressed in orange and his upper body was visible, but he was standing in a ravine with the sun behind him.

«You can’t blame anyone else,» Cheney said. «I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.»

Whittington owned a building in downtown Austin where many of the state’s powerful Republican agents built their empires. Bush used the building as his gubernatorial campaign headquarters, as did former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Rove also had his office there.

Whittington long played in Texas politics. In 1961, he worked on John Tower’s campaign for the US Senate and then helped a young Bush run for Congress, a race he lost. He was also a go-to guy for governors trying to clean up troubled state agencies and spent decades serving on state boards.

In the 1980s, Republican Gov. Bill Clements appointed him to the former Texas Board of Corrections, which oversaw a state prison system that a federal judge had ruled unconstitutional because of brutal conditions.

Whittington became an advocate for change in a prison system that lacked basic medical care and where people serving sentences were beaten by other inmates. He was also an advocate for the rights of inmates who have mental disabilities.

Bush, then the governor of Texas, appointed him in 1999 to lead a restructured Texas Funeral Services Commission, which became embroiled in a whistleblower lawsuit.

Rove said Whittington not only served his community in countless ways, but was also «a tremendous source of good advice and mentoring to dozens,» including him. He said Whittington was not only his landlord, but also the secretary and treasurer of his company.

“He was an extraordinary human being, and to be remembered as the victim of a hunting accident upsets me,” Rove said.