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Smith Bagley funeral a gathering of his fellow Democrats

Smith Bagley (Family photo)

If there was any lingering doubt about Washington philanthropist Smith Bagley's politics and passions, the crowd of Democrats at his funeral Thursday cleared that up right away.

"After all these years -- decades of friendship -- this is the first event I've attended for him," said Bill Clinton, who delivered the closing eulogy at Georgetown's Holy Trinity Catholic Church. "This man, notwithstanding the circumstances in which he was born or the wealth he generated for himself, always found a way to give more than he took."

The church was packed with family and friends: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, members of Congress, and plenty of people who benefited from Bagley's deep-pocket, behind-the-scenes generosity.

Bagley, who died Saturday at age 74, inherited a boatload of money from the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune, made even more from his cellphone business, then gave millions to liberal causes: campaign finance reform, lifting the Cuban embargo, D.C. voting rights, clean air and water, death penalty reform.

He converted to Catholicism after his marriage to his third wife, former ambassador to Portugal Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, but never wavered in his liberalism, said daughter Nancy Reynolds Bagley. "Democrats are for the people," he told her. "Republicans are for big business and property." Then she looked over to his casket and said: "I hope, Dad, that I can bring as much commitment, charm and passion to advancing the cause of social justice while agitating and pushing the envelope to think outside the box like you did."

The Mass lasted almost two hours, so Clinton, the last speaker, kept his remarks to six minutes.

"Can't you just hear Smith saying, 'Okay, enough. Make it short, Bill. Everyone wants to go to the Cosmos Club. Even I need a drink.' "

By The Reliable Source  |  January 8, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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