A Magnolia Made of Specialty Steel
by Dennis Small
Sept. 7—There is a common thread running through many of the messages sent in memory of Gail Billington. That she was a seemingly slight and frail person, but that inside she was endowed with steel—you might say specialty steel—that allowed her to move souls and mountains, in her lifelong commitment to economic and political justice for all mankind, through her leading role in the LaRouche movement.
She and Mike did that together, as a team, for their nearly 30 years of married life, during 10 of which Mike was in prison—or rather, multiple prisons—and during the last 10 of which, they jointly battled the disease that first imprisoned, and then finally felled her, one week ago, on Sept. 1, 2012. Their life together was not easy—but it was good. And Gail maintained an indomitable sense of humor and a laughing twinkle in her eye to the very end.
A message to Mike from Robbie and Elisa Barwick, of the LaRouche movement in Australia, captures that Gail:
"I well remember a dramatic intervention Gail made at an ICLC conference while you were in prison, when she challenged people to adopt a mission for their lives. Gail related her devastation at your incarceration, and her realization that it was incumbent upon her to take the lead in your shared mission to spread Lyndon LaRouche's ideas of peace through economic development throughout the nations of Asia. To me, Gail always had a slight quaver in her voice, but to use that voice to show such strength of leadership was a powerful act of courage I'll never forget."
I will read from a few other messages about Gail at the end of my remarks.
As for me, I've known Gail for 43 years, ever since we met at Swarthmore College in the Fall of 1969. Inmates of that institution, as Gail was fond of pointing out with scientific precision, and with her invincible smile, were properly known as Swarth-morons.
Gail, who was born on Aug. 30, 1951, in Magnolia, Ark., was a revolutionary, even in her college days. She had a privileged upbringing, not in the sense of earthly riches, but because as a youth, her family had lived in Libya and Venezuela (where she experienced at least one coup d'état), and she grew to know and love other cultures, and to hate the poverty and degradation that the majority of the world's population has been forced to endure. And she knew the unique role that her United States had to play in changing that.
She learned a lot from those countries—including the Libyan National Anthem, which, at a moment's notice, Gail would begin to sing with gusto, livening up many of our recent midday intelligence meetings. In fact, Gail had many expressions of such internationalism. For example, a knowledgeable linguist, and occasional cellist, Jean-Sebastian Tremblay, wrote to Mike: "Nobody I ever met had such pleasure at imitating the French-Canadian accent, as she did."
When the Alexandria railroad trial began in late 1988, Mike and Gail, and Gretchen and I, shared a rented apartment in Alexandria, Va. Our long-standing friendship was sorely tested by the fact that they chose to bring their cats with them to that apartment; but somehow that friendship survived. Gail teased me about that mercilessly, for decades—as did Mike.
After serving out his Federal sentence, Mike was tried again by the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the same crimes which he had not committed in the first place. They are nothing if not consistent: If they are going to hit you with double jeopardy, they at least do it for the same crime that you didn't commit the first time.
After a year out of jail, Mike was re-incarcerated. Later, Gail told Gretchen and me—as she probably did others here—that driving Mike back to jail that day was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. I'm reminded of what John F. Kennedy said about why we had to go to the Moon.
Gail, in adversity, became one of the best ambassadors that the LaRouche movement has ever had—and for a reason. Like Helga, and others, Gail took up the banner of her husband's unjust incarceration, not only as a personal cause, but as a universal political battle. And she changed every single person, and nation, that she met in the process. Not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
During this period, Gail not only traveled internationally, especially in Asia, but she also wrote extensively in defense of nations being subjected to the British Empire's economic and political genocide—from the Philippines, to Malaysia, to Cambodia, Myanmar, and more. For many of them, she was their savior angel, as can be seen in her extraordinary EIR interviews with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir—the man who called George Soros a moron—and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Gail's research, admittedly, benefitted from others' work. As Mike wrote in his book: "When asked to make a brief statement to an NCLC conference in 1998 concerning my work in prison, I explained that my wife had discovered a source of cheap prison labor, such that every time I called her, she loaded me up with new assignments, so that I barely had time to stand for count!"
It is perhaps best to judge Gail's work, and the soul that produced it, by its continuing impact.
Allow me to read excerpts from just a few of the endless messages Mike has received:
"Dear Mike: My condolences on the passing away of Gail. Gail's demise is a loss not only to you, but to all who believe in truth and justice in the perception of the affairs of the world. Gail did much to correct the wrong image of Malaysia created by the controlled Western Press, especially during the financial crisis of East Asia. I pray to God that He will grant Gail rest in peace.
"Dr. Mahatir bin Mohamad,
"Former Prime Minister of Malaysia."
From Cambodia, Ambassador to the U.S. Hem Heng:
"Gail was a great person who enlightened the hearts of many. She is a fighter, a very patient and perseverant lady. Her entire life is built on her love for justice and her belief for the truth. She is a true believer in the U.S. tradition of scientific supremacy, progress, and development, led by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. Her advocacy for Cambodian war refugees, and her fight against the injustice of the Khmer Rouge, is a vivid legacy of her love for humanity, peace and eternal justice. She is a great lady who gains our heart."
The Ambassador to the U.S. from Myanmar sent Mike a similar letter.
From the Philippines, Butch Valdes, leader of the Philippines LaRouche Society:
"We are eternally grateful to her for re-connecting us to Lyn and the whole LaRouche movement. We certainly miss her, but are consoled by the fact that her good soul indeed smiles, knowing that her life here was spent doing exactly what God had intended for her to do. Godspeed, Gail Billington."
From France, Jacques Cheminade (former French Presidential candidate, and leader of the LaRouche movement):
"I have particularly in mind those first moments in the 1974 French [intelligence] file, where I met Gail for the first time. And if she was more silent than others, she inspired also a deeper sense of respect. It has been one of the reasons why I joined the organization: She was a person who meant it, without pulling any kind of show. Then Odile and I met the dogs and the cats, and we went together to see you in jail."
From the United States, Debbie Freeman:
"During the fight for exoneration, Gail and I did a number of meetings together. Despite the fact that the horror that the two of you suffered through certainly would have made a compelling story, Gail was always completely focused on the bigger picture, and never played the role of victim. Oh, she certainly didn't mince words when it came to your case, but it was clear to anyone she met with, and any group she addressed, that she was not coming to them as 'a wife,' but as a political leader. She was always articulate, but her effectiveness wasn't simply because of the clarity of her presentation. It was Gail's grace and quiet strength in the face of it all, that invariably blew people away."
From Australia, LaRouche movement leader Gabby Peut:
"On my first trip to the United States for an ICLC conference, I got to stay with Gail. I was introduced to this very quiet, unassuming and tiny person (so I thought; looks can be deceiving), who took me under her wing and introduced me to Verdi. Gail would not only sing, but elaborated each and every part of the story of the opera (Il Trovatore), which we would play non-stop when we were going back and forth to the conference."
Gabby then referenced Gail's memorable intervention from the floor at that conference, which so many of us recall:
"It was incredibly powerful when she took center stage at the conference, and called upon each and every one of us to share that mission. It was her unwavering commitment and passion, coming from this seemingly 'tiny' person, that moved souls and mountains, that became a crucial foundation for the building of an ICLC organization on the continent of Australia."
The last message, with which I will close, expresses the heart of the matter. It comes from Dr. Su Jingxiang, a leading Chinese scholar, and frequent author of articles about LaRouche. He wrote:
"An ancient Chinese sage said: 'Everyone will eventually leave this world. The difference is the value of the life. Some people are heavier than the mountains, and some lighter than feathers. Gail was a courageous advocate of truth and justice, and the value of her life is heavier than the mountains. Her fight is not complete, but her spirit will remain active forever. We love her, and miss her dearly."