"It should be a law -- John French should chair the proceedings at both major party state conventions." I don't know which of my Capitol Press Corps colleagues originated that quip. But I heard it more than once during the eight DFL conventions in which French displayed his grace, wit, sense of order and knowledge of parliamentary procedure from the podium.

French, who died Saturday at age 79, was much more than a master with a convention gavel. He was a gentleman and a legal scholar who chaired the management committee of the big Faegre & Benson law firm, headed the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, co-chaired a U.S. District Judge nominating committee and represented Minnesota on the Democratic National Committee and at four Democratic national conventions.

He was also good at conveying his delight in life and in friends, and his respect for all he encountered in politics and public life. I know that if we could chat today, he would convey his dismay about the incivility that has become too prevalent in political discourse. His memory should carry a bit of that message.