A Tribute to My Friend: William L Armstrong

On Tuesday, July 5th, 2016, a very dear friend of mine died. On Friday, July 15th, we gathered to honor him, we shared stories about him, and we thanked God for his extraordinary life. How could one man have accomplished so much in such a short period of time? 

Bill Armstrong was president of Armstrong Broadcasting Company and later Ambassador Media Corporation. He bought KOSI-AM radio station when he was 22 years old and soon stretched it to include FM coverage as well. He owned and operated the Colorado Springs Sun newspaper and three ABC television stations in Idaho and Wyoming. He owned and operated more than a dozen private companies and served as director of six public companies, including the chairman position of the Denver-based Oppenheimer Funds. 

He served in the Colorado House of Representatives (1963-1964), The Colorado Senate (1965-1972), U.S. House of Representatives (1973-1978), and U.S. Senate (1979-1990). Upon leaving the Senate, he returned to Colorado and once again became involved in the business world. In 2006 Senator Armstrong became the president of Colorado Christian University. He claimed that his work at the University was “the most significant, energizing, and rewarding work I have ever undertaken.” 

As I sat in the large crowd at Senator Armstrong’s funeral, contemplating the impact of this great man’s influence on our contemporary world, I quickly realized that had it not been for this one man it is very likely that there would never have been an international humanitarian organization called Project C.U.R.E. 

I had serendipitously been seated at the same table with Senator Bill Armstrong and his wife, Ellen, at one of the first presidential prayer breakfasts of the Ronald Reagan administration in Washington D.C. He was warm and engaging and interested in what I was doing. I explained a bit about my work as an international economic consultant in Africa and South America. At his invitation, I returned to Washington and met with him at his office. I chatted with him about my ideas regarding debt for equity swaps in the lesser developed countries in South America. I asked Senator Armstrong if he could assist me in getting introduced to the political leadership of the country of Brazil, as I thought I could be of help to them. He graciously agreed to help me. 

I had previously been introduced to some very powerful people in Sao Paulo who had considerable influence in the capital, Brasilia. In addition to those names my portfolio now included letters of introduction and recommendation from Senators Armstrong and McCain. The Brazilian government now officially invited me to come to Brasilia. Senator Armstrong had contacted our U.S. Ambassador, Shlackman, U.S. Consul on Economic Affairs, Michael J. Delaney, and U.S. Economic Minister to Brazil, John Bowen. Mr. Bowen would formally introduce me to Brazil’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Eventually, I was introduced to Brazil’s President, Jose Sarney, and one of his chief economists, Antonio Basilar. 

That is how I got involved in Brazil. It was in Brazil that I eventually became sensitized to the incredible need for medical supplies and pieces of medical equipment in the lesser developed countries of the world. I was eventually able to organize Project C.U.R.E. to help in fulfilling that need in over 130 other hurting countries. Senator Bill Armstrong played a pivotal and irreplaceable part in that protocol and sequence of events. 

On Thursday, April 7th of this year, I had a meeting with Bill Armstrong in his CCU office. I took along with me a copy of one of the letters he had written on my behalf in Brazil. He could hardly believe that I had kept the letter for nearly thirty years. At that meeting I was delivering an advance copy of my newest book Better Off that he had agreed to review for me. Little did I know that meeting would be the last formal meeting I would have with him. 

On Saturday, April 16th, I received a call from Senator Armstrong. He was so excited and enthusiastic. He had just finished reading the book. He was so encouraging and said he was sending a personal endorsement email to me within the next few minutes. Tears came to my eyes as I thanked God for William L. Armstrong. His immense love for God and his compelling desire to help other people had not diminished during his times of pain and cancer, but had become even stronger with each remaining day of his life.

This world is a better place and all our lives are richer because of the loving life of Bill Armstrong.

© Dr. James W. Jackson   

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