A Brief Account | George Plimpton: Birding, Baseball and Conservation

I was pleased to learn about the film, Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton As Himself.

Plimpton! tells the story of writer, editor, amateur sportsman and friend to many, George Plimpton. Using Plimpton’s own narration – along with thoughts and stories from friends, family and contemporaries – the film is a joyful celebration of a life lived fully, richly, strangely, and, at times, a life that is hard to believe was actually lived by just one man.

That description is perfect. George is perhaps best known for his work with The Paris Reviewwhich was co-founded by George and two colleagues in 1953. The Paris Review was launched specifically to focus on creative work (fiction and poetry), rather than literary “criticism.”

I met the late George Plimpton in the mid-1990s in Dallas when I was working with The Nature Conservancy of Texas. I had helped the Conservancy open the Dallas office after two well meaning but failed attempts by others. As part of my work, I helped launch a series of annual Corporate Conservation Leadership luncheons in partnership with the Dallas Regional Chamber that were designed to educate and cultivate corporate leaders about conservation, and to acknowledge those companies already doing significant work to conserve our shared natural resources. You can learn more about these ground breaking events by following this link to another article on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, “A Special Event: An Environmental Breakthrough for Texas.”

Working in Dallas in its fast-paced corporate environment meant working with busy CEOs with very high standards. At the time, most “environmental groups” were perceived as being unsophisticated (at all levels). Hence, I had engaged the late Mike Hicks of HIXO to design several cutting-edge corporate invitations and tandem pieces for our Corporate Conservation Leadership events. The designs set a high tone for the events and helped The Nature Conservancy break into conservative corporate markets relatively quickly. I helped create and implement the first event of this kind in Austin. My new mission was to break into the corporate realm of North Texas along similar lines.

Working with HIXO at the time was Rob Miller. Rob was overseeing design and marketing work for The Macallan. HIXO thanked The Nature Conservancy for its patronage – by now they had produced several stellar corporate event invitations, programs and awards – by arranging a private reception in Dallas featuring George Plimpton. The event was sponsored and underwritten for us by The Macallan. And George spoke to our VIP guests about, “baseball and birding.”

Not many are aware George Plimpton was an avid and knowledgeable birder. He was also a good friend of leading Texas birding tour leader and Nature Conservancy supporter, Victor Emanuel. The event was stunning. George recounted tales of his birding experiences with his customary insightful and wry sense of humor, while guests savored The Macallan (a variety of ages), and noshed on smoked salmon (salmon smoked over Macallan wood casks).

Deedie and the late Edward W. “Rusty” Rose hosted the reception in their Highland Park home in Dallas, which was brand new at the time and designed by internationally renowned architect, Antoine Predock. Rusty had been an early advocate for wildlife conservation in Texas and early on. His then-new home included a birding “ramp” out the back, within sight of Turtle Creek. He was also a co-owner of the beloved baseball team, the Texas Rangers. Hence, the title of George’s talk.

I remember this occasion as one of the few times I saw Rusty smile and laugh. He was a savvy and intense corporate leader: smiling was not something he did very often, at least in my experience. I was so glad to have inspired his joy that evening.

Although it has been several years since that reception took place, my heartfelt thanks go still to the late Mike Hicks, Rob Miller, HIXO and The Macallan for making the event possible, as well as the Rose Family. This was yet another way we set a high tone for The Nature Conservancy of Texas’ work, and it cost our nonprofit chapter nothing. #Grateful

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