It was a special day in April 2006 when the phone rang at the Snow household in The Villages.
When Jim answered the call, he heard the voice of his son, Tony, on the other end of the line. The man best known as a Fox News television news anchor, political commentator and syndicated columnist was calling his father and stepmother, Dottie, to share some special news – he was getting ready to be announced as President George W. Bush’s new White House press secretary.
It was a move for Tony that surprised many in the television and journalism world. After all, he had been known to argue with press secretaries himself from time to time. And it’s safe to say that he wasn’t always gentle in his criticisms of the White House or the president, for that matter.
But speculation had been running rampant that Tony Snow might be Bush’s next spokesperson – especially among friends in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown – but Jim patiently waited to hear from his son. And when Tony told him to keep his eyes on the news in the coming days, Jim knew his son was getting ready to take on an extremely difficult, demanding and highly important job.
Some might say that Jim was a bit biased, but his friends and neighbors weren’t surprised to hear him touting the choice of Tony to deal with the den of oftentimes rabid-like reporters on a regular basis. He cited that the fact that the 50-year-old conservative pundit had just about done it all in the media business during a 20-year career. And the former resident of Northern Kentucky said he believed having his well-respected son at the helm of the press briefings could help Bush improve his sagging approval numbers following the invasion of Iraq on the foreign front and out-of-control gas prices at home.
The news also didn’t surprise Jim because he and Tony had talked about issues in the White House more than once. They had discussed the pressure-cooker atmosphere that seemed to be getting to Tony’s predecessor, Scott McClellan. And they discussed what the job might be like, though Jim says Tony never talked about actually moving into the high-pressure role.
Many thought that Tony was way too busy to think about taking the White House post. He was involved in multiple ventures in the world of media, including a five-day-a-week radio show. And he wanted to spend as much time as possible with wife Jill and their three children, Kendall, Robbie and Kirsti.
But the man who developed an early interest in politics, public policy and journalism – he was the editor of his high school newspaper – felt a strong calling to help the president. But he made it clear going in that the only way he would take the job was if he had easy access to Bush. And the one-time chief speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush told the White House powers-that-be that he wasn’t going to a pushover for them, because after all, he really didn’t need the job in the first place.
Jim knew that he’d see less of his son in his new role, but he let his Villages neighborhood and anybody who would listen know how proud he was to be the father of the president’s spokesperson. And when a local journalist once inquired about interviewing Tony during one of his many visits to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, he had his son personally call and leave a message, explaining that he was on vacation but would love to hook up and chat during another visit.
When Tony took the White House job, he had been diagnosed with colon cancer the year before. He had surgery, went through chemotherapy and was in remission the day he stood next to Bush for the big announcement.
But the disease that killed his mother at the young age of 38 would come roaring back in 2007 and he would be forced to undergo surgery again and take five weeks off. He would return to the job full of vigor and continue to serve the president in his own style. But in September 2007, he decided to step down, saying he wanted a job that paid more than $168,000 he was earning.
Tony Snow died on July 12, 2008 after a courageous battle against cancer. His death rocked Jim and Dottie hard. And many of their Villages friends and neighbors who had gotten to know Tony and his family were shaken to the core as well.
Dottie Snow, who have moved to The Villages with Jim in 1998, died on July 5, 2017. The well-known quilter with a love traveling, originally from Deer Park, Ohio, was 85.
Jim Snow died a few months later on Dec. 9, 2017. The Army colonel who also was a former educator/teacher and counselor to junior and senior high school students in the Cincinnati area was 86.
Jim had three children – Tony, Steve and Jennifer; while Dottie had five – Michael, Guy, Sue, Pam and Lynne Wesselkamper. They were a loving, blended family and also shared 24 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.