Not as long as anyone immersed in Lansing politics and government is still alive.
McDiarmid, retired for nearly two decades, died at age 84 on Saturday in a metro Detroit hospital of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
As his former Detroit Free Press colleague Dawson Bell wrote in an encomium this past week-end, “McDiarmid was an icon of a now-vanishing era of media and politics in which penetrating examination and pointed analysis were almost never personal.”
McDiarmid was the last and most noteworthy of a long line of political columnists based in the state capitol that included the late George Weeks, a fixture at The Detroit News who died late last year.More than any of these journalists, McDiarmid combined the ability to write articles and columns that actually influenced public policy with distinctive personal qualities that made him a legend.
Anecdotes from Bill Rustem, a former top aide to both Gov. William G. Milliken and Gov. Rick Snyder, and Wilma Harrison aka “Billie Lillie, ” also a Milliken aide, prove the point:
Billie Harrison provides an example of McDiarmid’s mischievous side:
“The back door to my office (in the governor’s office in the state capitol building) opened onto the Senate lobby. It was unmarked, kept locked, and used only rarely, mostly when the boss needed a back way out of the office.
“One day, I suddenly had a spate of people turning the knob and trying to get in. I would open the door a crack, peek out, and say “Yes?” Then there would be a rather surprised look on some man’s face–usually accompanied by “Oh!” or “Excuse me!”–and a hasty retreat.
“It happened several times. I couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I opened the door all the way, and there, affixed to it, was a GENTLEMEN sign. McDiarmid was the culprit. RIP, Hugh. Thanks for good reporting and good fun.”
Longtime Milliken secretary Nancy Dockter adds this: “He was just the best. I think of him with his nose pressed against the glass door (of the governor’s office back when it really was located in the state capitol building) in his raspberry red sweater with a couple of holes in it, with his hands stretched out. He had a wonderful sense of humor … He really was one of a kind.”