Scott Bennett, former Public Affairs Editor for Texas Business magazine,
former editorial writer and nationally distributed columnist for The Dallas
Morning News, made these observations about Tieman H. Dippel, Jr.
In 1953, philosopher and intellectual historian Isaiah Berlin
wrote in his essay, "The Hedgehog and the Fox," "the Fox knows many things
while the Hedgehog knows but one big thing."
Journalists like to identify political leaders as being one or
the other. Ronald Reagan was a Hedgehog whose organizing principal was the "big
thing" called anti-communism. Bill Clinton was frequently depicted as a man who
knew so much that he pursued too much.
The author of this book, my friend of decades, Skipper Dippel
(Tieman to those who donít know him) is that most rare of creatures: one who
combines the best of the Hedgehog and the Fox. Skipper knows one big thing:
conscience must be paramount for a civil society. But he also knows many other
things and pursues many ends, often unrelated, but somehow never contradictory.
Skipper is a scholar, a businessman, a lawyer, an activist for
many worthy causes, a philanthropist, a politician, a family man, and above all
and in the highest sense of the word a "citizen."
One big thing Skipper knows is that everyone has a philosophy
whether they know it or not. They may be a Christian or a Moslem, a Republican
or a Democrat, a Crip or a Blood, but they have and act on a philosophy. The
fundamental question is whether their philosophy is grounded in conscience or
"convenience." Does a man or woman seek to discern right and stand by it or do
they do what is most convenient no matter the cost to others and their own
Brenham, Texas, Skipperís lifelong residence, is a small idyllic
town on the lush coastal plains of Texas midway between Austin and Houston.
When Texans lived mostly in small towns, places like Brenham and Decatur (my
home) could produce political powerhouses. Now that most Texans live in four
metropolitan areas, with their vaults of political money and media reach,
movers and shakers are rarely found in the small towns of Texas. Skipper is an
It is true he has the resources to write big checks and
occasionally does. He can also raise a few bucks. But Skipper Dippel has not
been a mover in Texas political and civic affairs for a quarter century because
of fund raising prowess. He attained and maintained that status because it is
widely known and accepted that Skipper acts only on conscience.
He is a true moral force, and I have always been amazed at the
power of moral force in a state where might is mightily respected. The late
Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a man who understood political might better than
most, once told me that he found himself perplexed over a piece of legislation
that was of no real interest to him, but was critical to many of his friends
who were evenly divided for and against. When he heard Skipper opposed the bill
he decided to oppose it too (although the two never discussed it personally).
Why? Because he assumed it was the "right" thing to do.
To the astonishment of those who knew him in college, Skipper
has never run for public office. Nor has he ever really proclaimed a party
allegiance. Instead he has worked through a plethora of networks, some formal
some not. These have included religious, political, academic, civic,
professional, arts, and business organizations. Some he founded, some he lead,
some he helped lead, some he simply helped shape as a member or even as just an
Why? Why not run for office? Why not leave Brenham, strikeout
for Austin or Houston? Why run a small bank when none doubt he could have run a
major bank? Why spend a lifetime enmeshed in organizations and networks that
must literally number over 100? First, because he believes this is how and
where a free people can be truly effective. He believes it is where the
conscience can at least have its day in court.
Second, he believes in the power of history and culture. His
history and his culture are the history and culture of Texas. The Texas into
which he and I were born is largely vanished. Oil and cattle donít matter much
more than Brenham or Decatur. And if nations are fading in importance states
like Texas surely are too. But there is still a culture and a history that
lives on, there is still a Texas way, and Skipper, the quintessential Texan is
determined to see that the best of what that was survives him.
This book, The Language of Conscience, is intended a sort
of handbook for those who would lead on the "big thing" of conscience, and on
the "many things" that include history, culture, responsibility,
accountability, and activism within all the venues a free society provides. And
it is about seeing the beast of Texas survives.