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The End of an Era
July 16, 2008 - Joe Gorman
Somewhere, in the maw of the federal prison system, Jim Traficant has to be bummin.'
His best buddy, the man who was supposed to ride to his rescue the second time those rascally feds took him to court, Don L. Hanni, died Wednesday morning after a period of failing health for several months. He was 82.
At one time the two couldn't stand to be in the same room together. But they patched up their differences and Hanni was one of his staunchest defenders during Traficant's second trial, the one where they finally got him.
Traficant likened himself a maverick, but Hanni also marched to the beat of his own drummer. His office was filled with pictures of famous Democrats he had met over the years. Some of the things I remember about him are as follows:
-- Fellow media members always addressed him as ``chairman,' even after he was deposed as party boss by the Democrats for Change movement led by former Chairman Michael Morley in 1994.
-- He said a lot but the one thing that stands out is this: ``Hell yes, I'm going give jobs to my political friends. Who am I supposed to give them to? My enemies?'
-- His defense of Steven Masters in the late 1970s when Masters was on trial for the murder of his young wife in Boardman. I had a teacher at St. Brendans who was friends with the victim and she always turned on the news at noon for updates. I would eat my lunch and watch Hanni and other lawyers argue through the static of the television.
-- Holding court in whatever courtroom he was arguing a case in. Wherever he was at there was laughter.
-- His idea to make a zoo in Lincoln Park when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the 1960s.
There are other things. I'm sure some will remember his drunken driving case and the ``first drive through post office in the country' after he was accused of ramming his car into it. He also once represented Mickey Monus. But one thing that stands out most of all is a memory from childhood. My father used to be in the party, and sometimes he would take me with him to party functions. And I remember a meeting in the building downtown that now houses the St. Vincent DePaul food kitchen, where I was coloring in the hallway while I heard The Chairman behind a closed door vividly lay down a strategy for an upcoming campaign in language that can not be printed in a family blog.
Say what they will about him, but Judge R. Scott Krichbaum was right when he said, ``they don't make them like Don Hanni anymore.' He was a product of Youngstown unlike anyone else.
Expect perhaps for Jim Traficant.
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