INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Earl Usher risked his life nearly for a decade to protect former Iowa Governor Robert Ray. Even at the age of 82, he said would do it for another decade, if he could.
Ray passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 89 after battling Parkinson's Disease.
Usher, who eventually ascended to the rank of colonel in the Iowa State Patrol, served as one of the first heads of the governor's security detail in the 1970s. The Iowa National Guard formerly provided security for Iowa governors. Usher drove Ray to news conferences, ribbon cuttings, and dinners across the state and got to know him in a way few other state employees ever could.
"A friendship you can't buy," Usher said from his Indianola home on Monday, speaking about the close relationship he formed with the Governor and First Lady Billie Ray. It was a friendship that lasted nearly half a century.
Several times a week while on security detail, Usher said the governor would insist they stop and help a stranded motorist, giving numerous people rides. He also acknowledges how an act like that would likely be unheard of today with modern-day politicians. But that was the kind of thoughtful, caring person Ray was, Usher recalled.
"Pride and loyalty," Usher said to describe what he felt being able to spend so much time with the Rays over the years.
He feels politicians today would be best served if they followed the way Ray conducted himself as a public servant, becoming one of the most revered Iowa politicians in modern history.