RUSH: My grandfather, Rush Limbaugh Sr., was 100 years old in 1991.
My first book, I dedicated it to him, and I mentioned that he is the Limbaugh that everybody should have had the chance to know. Every family has a renowned, mythological patriarch who was a guiding influence. A lot of that, in many families, is mythological. In our family, it was real. My grandfather, when it was said that he never smoked or drank, he never did.
When it was said that he never uttered a curse word, he never did. When it was said he put a coat and tie on seven days a week, he did. He was indescribably, in our view — all of us in the family — he was the embodiment of perfection. We were all raised hoping to please him, satisfy him, make him happy, meet his expectations. He was renowned and respected in the law in the state of Missouri.
He was sent to India by the State Department during the Eisenhower administration in 1958 on some kind of a goodwill exploratory mission. I remember we’d go to their house on the appointed nights because he and my grandmother were gonna call and tell us what was going on. After that, it wasn’t long before people from India were trooping through his house, people he had met. That scratches the surface.
I can’t begin to describe for you his character other than to say it was unassailable. He and my mother are the only two people I’ve known that everybody liked ’em. Not one person disliked them! I mean, that’s not possible. I don’t… (chuckling) In my experience, I don’t know how that’s possible. My mother and my grandfather, everybody not just liked them, but revered them. So, anyway, just a brief setup. He was being awarded a service award by the Missouri Bar Association in 1991 at their convention.
So I took the radio show to Kansas City and interviewed him on that day, and we thought it was lost. I mean, the last couple years, really, we thought that the tape was lost, and Cookie has found it. We’ve got the whole thing. I just have some sound bites from it here, because the people who heard it, have requested it over and over again over the years. So here’s the first installment. We’re not gonna play the whole thing here. It went almost an hour. Here are some highlights, and we start with this.
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RUSH: Greetings to you, folks, all across the fruited plain from Kansas City today, this is the Rush Limbaugh program on the Excellence in Broadcasting Network, and we welcome you to an essential edition of the program today. I am opening the program today with an amount of pride that is difficult to describe. Today, ladies and gentlemen, my grandfather, Rush H. Limbaugh — I am actually Rush H. Limbaugh III — turns 100.
In fact the time of his birth, he doesn’t exactly remember, but it is sometime in the afternoon. So he will turn 100 years of age during this program today, and I’m gonna be selfish. I mean, the whole family is in town. The Missouri Bar Association meeting is here. We call him Pop, by the way, ladies and gentlemen. So I will refer to him today as Pop, affectionately so.
The entire Missouri Bar meeting this year is practically devoted to his achievements as a lawyer, celebrating his 75th anniversary in the practice of law today, and he is sitting just to my left. I can’t tell you how proud we all are, Pop. I don’t want to start off by praising you to the point that you become embarrassed, but I thought about this on the airplane flying out here yesterday: What would be the most descriptive, yet brief introduction to the people of America that listen to this program of you that I can make?
And this is it: If you had been born earlier, you would have been one of this country’s Founding Fathers. This man has set an example for those of us in his family to live up to that we’ll never achieve, but your efforts have all made us better people than we would otherwise have been. It is impossible to describe his achievements, his character, his temperament, his devotion to family and himself. I’ll just let that be evident as he speaks to you today and as we do the first hour of the program.
Welcome, and I’m glad to see you on your hundredth birthday. This is an amazing… I’ve got tingles, chills running up my back.
POP: I am the one that I should think is more like you have described, in your own condition. I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for your introduction. You have expressed praise that’s beyond what you should have said.
RUSH: No, no, no. It’s Missouri.
POP: Because I’m just a country boy —
RUSH: Here we go.
POP: — that came up from the country when there wasn’t anything else to do where I lived.
RUSH: Well, I was gonna ask you about your boyhood. You grew up, you were born in Sedgewickville, Missouri, which is in southeastern Missouri in 1891. What was your boyhood like when you were growing up, and when did you leave home to start out on your career?
POP: Well, I was born not in Sedgewickville. Sedgewickville was our post office. It was four miles away from the place of my birth. I was born in a farm home on a little creek called Muddy Creek, and I was the last of eight children. And the family into which I came, when I was born, we lived in the usual farm home at that time, all of us working together.
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RUSH: Let’s just keep it going here…
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RUSH: You followed a horse on a plow, right?
POP: Oh, yes.
RUSH: I mean, you plowed fields.
POP: Oh, yes.
RUSH: For how long did you do that?
POP: Well, I was at home regularly until I left home to go to Millersville High School when I was 14. Up to that time, I had spent all my life on the farm where I was born, with the exception of the time I was in school. I went to a one-room school about a mile from our home when school time was on and we had a six-month school period.
POP: The rest of the time I was working on the farm, did all kinds of farm work. I plowed and all.
RUSH: Do you think that has contributed to your longevity? I mean, to what do you assign the fact that you lived to be 100?
POP: I have no formula to suggest to anybody about that.
POP: I really… (chuckling)
RUSH: That’s unique.
POP: (chuckling) I really don’t know. I lived one day at a time, taking things as they were at the time.
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RUSH: Now, folks, at a time when the president and a lot of people other people go on and on about government growing the middle class… “The middle class can’t do anything on their own! The middle class can’t accomplish anything unless government is out there doing things for them! Government provides upward mobility for people. You should not work for yourself and you should not invest in yourself, because it’s a rigged game! The powerful will screw you! You should rely on government to do it for you.”
It’s what people are being told from their earliest moments today. “The government will provide benefits, and, in fact, benefits should be your focus. Make sure you get benefits at your job, and make sure you get benefits when you’re dealing with the government.” The word “benefits” is thrown out by the president and the Democrat Party left and right. And when you listen to my grandfather, 100 years of age in September 1991, the entire concept of benefits from government to guide you through life was foreign.
It was incomprehensible.
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RUSH: Given the time you were born, 1891, not even 30 years after the Civil War, that’s less than 30 years after the Civil War ended, you, at the time you were born and for the first 50 years of your life, 40 years of your life, you had more in common with people who lived, in terms of technology, you had more in common with people who lived 500 years ago than with people born in 1960 or 1970. Yet you’ve lived through all of these years and you have remained prominent at what you do, which is no mean feat to remain prominent through the years as you have, to keep up with things as another testament to you. Are you conscious of the majestic ways this country has changed? Do you remember them frequently in your mind?
POP: Oh, indeed. Indeed, I do. And one of the main things I remember in my childhood in our home, as in the rural area where I lived, times were hard. Money was the last thing we could get hold of. We had to provide for our living with things that we grew on the farm, vegetables and livestock for our pork that was generally used for meat on the farm. I was regularly working with a team. If a team was required for the work that was on at the time, like the breaking of ground, I drove a team from the time I was ten years of age.
RUSH: You drove a team, you mean of horses or mules?
POP: A team of horses or mules. Two horses and two mules constituted the team, and they would pull a plow, and I would hold the handles to the plow to keep the plow in the ground, to break it. Then after the ground was broken, we would go through the process of getting the ground in order by running a harrow over it.
RUSH: How many acres did you have to till?
POP: Well, we had actually on the home farm 458 acres.
RUSH: How much of this did you have to cover on —
POP: Not quite half of it was in cultivation.
RUSH: Two hundred.
POP: Two hundred acres.
RUSH: We may have one of the reasons as to how and why you’ve lived 100 years. That was hard work.
POP: It was.
RUSH: It built up a constitution.
POP: Oh, yes. At that time we considered that it was a disgrace if we didn’t beat the sun to the field to where we worked. And we stayed there longer than the sun stayed. Yes, and during that time, we didn’t take time out for a half-hour break between —
RUSH: There was no union. There was no union, and there were no coffee breaks.
POP: That’s right.
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RUSH: That’s September 27, 1991, my grandfather, Rush Limbaugh Sr. on his 100th birthday. We’ve just got one sound bite remaining from that and we’ll get to that when we get back. Don’t go away.
RUSH: And we’re back on the 25th anniversary. By the way, my grandfather lived to be 108 years old. One final sound bite, clip from that interview, September 22nd, 1991, I asked him what it was that made him want to go into the law.
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POP: My father said, in what to me has been a kind of a motto of life: “If he can’t keep order, he can’t teach school.” And that struck me, and I’ve always thought about the truth of that statement. Order. If a collection of people can’t live orderly, there is all kinds of difficulty, as we experienced at that time. When we would go to picnics, there would be men who would meet there with old grudges who would fight, fight in the presence of the crowd. Sometimes they would hurt each other badly. And one time I remember there was a murder. One man came to another and confronted him in the crowd and shot him and killed him. Well, that made another further impression on me. There is something wrong when things like this happen in our situation.
And then another last-day-of-school entertainment came, and when we were in the program that was given that day at school, there was a fight that broke out outside the schoolroom, and everybody left the schoolroom because of the fight. Then at that time, the ladies in the area had brought their food, and they served lunch on the ground outside. When the lunch was on, a man dropped in from I never knew where. But as we would have said at that time, he was three axe handles high. And he wore a big, black, broad brim hat. And he started his conversation in this way.
He says, “I have come here representing the law. I have understood that there are certain men in this area that say they are going to have trouble here and fight it out. I came to tell you there’s not going to be any trouble here. If any trouble begins, those who start it are going to first whip me. And there’s not going to be any trouble because none of you are gonna undertake that, I promise you.” Well, now, that gave me an idea that, well, here is someone representing the law. What an enormous thing this is in a community. A man comes in and says, “I’m the law.”
Well, I was interested in that, and I began reading about what it meant to be a lawyer. And my sister bought for me a book of speeches, we call them, recitations. And in that book, I read the speech that Patrick Henry made to the Virginia assembly, “Give me liberty or give me death.” And I committed that speech to memory. And on the last day of school, I spoke it to the crowd. And they listened to me. And I thought, “Well, here, I believe maybe I can do something like that. I believe I better be a lawyer.” I was 12 years old at that time. Then when I went to Millerville High School, I saw at the home of the justice of the peace, I saw the statutes of Missouri, two enormous volumes. That was the law. That was a challenge to me. Maybe I ought to be a lawyer.
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RUSH: Now, imagine, folks, having the opportunity to speak to this man every day about what you wanted to do. Imagine having that person’s brain to pick and to learn from it. We all did. Any time he spoke and got serious about something, captivated the room and mesmerized us all, whoever was in the room. He grew up, from this point he ended up idolizing Abraham Lincoln. He became a Lincoln expert. But I referenced this in a question to him earlier. At the time he was born he had more in common — he was born 1891 — he had more in common with people who had lived 500 years ago. I mean, economically, lifestyle, culture, he had more in common.
There was no electricity. There were no creature comforts. He had more in common with people that far back than he would have in common with people born in 1950, or even 1940. And he had seen quite a bit. There’s much more to this — maybe I’ll play it someday — what his opinion is of when the United States actually became a great nation. He pinpointed it, briefly, to the creation of the Navy and the ability to spread our message to the world.
RUSH: I erred a moment ago. My grandfather lived to 104, not 108. I don’t know why I said that. I was thinking of something that made me think 108. He lived to be 104, and he worked productively until he was I think 102, if I’m not mistaken. My family, by the way, they were all… Ah, not all. The vast majority of my family went into the law, such was the profound influence that he had.
I mean, for all of us growing up, there was this imagined or dreamed of, humongous law firm: Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh and we were gonna throw somebody else in there just to break it up. In fact, we did: Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh, Limbaugh & Russell. A lot of the family went into the law. Some went into banking. I’m the only one that didn’t.
Well, that’s not quite accurate to say. The family has expanded now that there are others who haven’t, but at the time I was coming of age to go to college and so forth, I was the only one who didn’t. Furthermore, none of my family understood radio, and they were very worried that it wasn’t gonna lead to anything. They didn’t understand the social value or relevance, ’cause at the time I was playing records.
I was introducing Donny Osmond songs, and they were profoundly worried. I’ve told you before, my father came out of the Great Depression. The formative life experience for him was the Great Depression, and there were just certain things that you had to do to get work in that time, and one of them was have a college education. So it was at that time (as it is today, by the way), drilled into all of us, “You’ve gotta go to college. It’s not even discussable,” and I didn’t go.
I didn’t want any part of it. I knew what I wanted to do and because I had quit everything prior to that… I was a Boy Scout tenderfoot for a year before they drummed me out, and you’re a tenderfoot just for joining. I mean, I didn’t achieve anything, and this was the first thing that I had never quit. So they were kind of stuck, and they ended up encouraging me, even though they never understood it.
I’d go home and talk to my grandfather. He asked me how my career was going, and to him, the media was Walter Cronkite. If you weren’t trying to be Cronkite, then it didn’t click. Disk jockey was (sigh) tolerable, but it wasn’t really understood. But the point of all this is that despite that, everybody that knew us assumed that there was this great pressure on all of the grandkids to be lawyers. There was no pressure, just a desire.
But I’ve never had anything other than full, total support from everybody in the family, including during times that have been challenging for everybody. So, I guess that pretty much sums that aspect up. I didn’t do anything that the family prescribed. They were worried about it but didn’t say anything because radio was the first thing I had stuck to. I thought I had failed at radio when I got fired, I don’t know, second or third time.
I went to work for the Kansas City Royals at age 27 making $12,000 a year, and my father thought that I’d finally gotten serious. He thought that I might finally amount to something because that was a real job. He said, “Son, if you behave and you work hard, in 40 years, you might be a vice president.” That was the career path. That’s how hard success was.
That’s how much work it took, and that’s what it was back in those days, and what I was doing didn’t compute. When, five years later, I left the baseball team and went back to radio, there was a collective sigh and a bit of, “Oh, no.” But throughout all of it there was nothing but total support, for which I’ve always been grateful and always will be.