It’s All About Relationships: My Best Friend, Talmage Boston

A few weeks ago, I dedicated a post to the first prong of the Blum Family Mission Statement: “It’s All About Relationships.” I dedicated the post to my fellow Canoe Brothers, a brotherhood rooted in our shared UT law school experience. Today, I want to single out one of such Canoe Brothers, my best friend Talmage Boston. Our connection was forged by sharing a law school experience and all the times together thereafter. This weekend, Talmage is being honored in Houston by the Texas Bar Foundation, receiving the coveted Dan Rugeley Price Memorial Award for his leadership in the legal profession and his writing talents. The Canoe Brothers will be there to cheer for Brother Talmage, who has been a role model to many, but especially to me. My friendship with Talmage has enriched my life immeasurably.

I first met Talmage at our college dorm Dobie Center on The University of Texas campus. We had a lot in common: each of us a dedicated student, solidly committed to family, faith, and friends. Yet in other ways, Talmage was light years ahead of me—outgoing, confident, athletic. Those were the days of the Vietnam war and Watergate, and Talmage was politically outspoken as Chair of the Texas Union Ideas & Issues Committee. He even ran for UT Student Body President and almost won (beat out by the first female to serve in that role). In my view, Talmage was the proverbial “Big Man on Campus.”

In our senior year, Talmage approached me with the idea of becoming roommates the following year at UT Law School. I was honored and flattered. I deliberated a bit, as I’d never had a roommate (other than my brother Irwin), and there was also the subject of religion. All of my Jewish friends lived with other Jewish people. It was natural for young Jews to stick together, as the Jewish connection is powerful both religiously and culturally. My close friend Karen Cortell (now Reisman) even raised the question: “Marvin, what about the fact Talmage isn’t Jewish?” I knew Talmage had many Jewish friends and respected people of all backgrounds. I decided to take the risk.

(Of course, there was the time I brought my week of kosher food for Passover, along with a kosher skillet to warm it in, and came home to discover pork chops being fried in it. Let’s describe that as a “teachable moment.” I cherish the memory.)

Talmage opened me up to a world outside the classroom. My social life soared, even joining with Talmage to throw some pretty spirited parties (the themes of two of them—“Africa” and “Mexico”—conjure up some crazy memories). Talmage looped me into his friendships with campus leaders and later with national political, literary, and sports heros, such as the late, great Bobby Brown. Talmage taught me to have the courage to seek anything you want. (“The worst they can say is ‘no’.”) He even gave me the determination to go after Laurie, the girl of my dreams, and joined me on a trip to London to “run into” Laurie and her family and convince her to marry me. (It worked!) That’s true friendship.

Through continued shared experiences, my 50-year friendship with Talmage just keeps growing. Talmage encourages me to continually grow and reinvent myself. In that regard, Talmage as an accomplished speaker and author of several books is a true role model. He champions my painting and my writing, urging me to write a book on Family Legacy Planning. (Maybe someday?)

I’m still Marvin and he’s still Talmage, but we’ve been a great influence on each other in ways both profound and whimsical. He even has me joining him to sing my heart out at outdoor concerts. Talmage is good. I’m not, but he taught me “who cares?” One such night in song was at a concert of Eagles songs, and the title of their hit “Take It to the Limit” fits Talmage to a T! All of us who know and love Talmage would agree he lives life by “taking it to the limit.”

I urge everyone to find a friend who stretches you and completes you, the way Talmage fills in the gaps for me. Talmage recently sent the Canoe Brothers a quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson from FDR’s January 1945 inaugural address: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” The search for friendship requires each of us to make an investment. The more we invest, the greater the ROI (return on investment). Invest in a relationship with someone who brings out your best and challenges you to grow.

I’ll close with the two ending stanzas in Henry David Thoreau’s poem “Friendship,” which so aptly depicts the intertwined roots of my friendship with Talmage.

Two sturdy oaks I mean, which side by side,
Withstand the winter’s storm,
And spite of wind and tide,
Grow up the meadow’s pride,
For both are strong

Above they barely touch, but undermined
Down to their deepest source,
Admiring you shall find
Their roots are intertwined

Marvin E. Blum

Left photo: Talmage Boston and Marvin Blum (right) on Europe trip in 1978—growing a beard was Talmage’s idea, always stretching Marvin out of his comfort zone. Right photo: Marvin Blum (left) and Talmage Boston donating the “Blum & Boston Scholarship” at UT Law School in honor of a lifelong friendship that started during their law school years.