Crime & Courts

November 15, 2009

Pair recount friendship with Capote

All four were in their mid-30s when the Clutters were brutally murdered.

All four were in their mid-30s when the Clutters were brutally murdered.

Their friendship would span decades.

Clifford Hope was Herb Clutter's attorney. His wife, Dolores, former city editor at the Garden City Telegram, was home raising their kids.

Together, the couple befriended Capote, author of "In Cold Blood," and his childhood friend, Nelle Harper Lee, who was awaiting publication of her book, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The Hopes helped introduce the writers to Finney County, providing an intimacy Capote might not have had otherwise.

Clifford Hope gave Capote and Harper Lee their first tour of the Clutter home. The Hopes invited Capote and Harper Lee to Christmas dinner.

"I remember when I was single and a holiday would come along," Dolores Hope said recently. "It was pretty hard to find someplace to eat because the restaurants in town were closed.

"So we called and asked them if they'd like to come to dinner a day or two before Christmas. When I called Nelle I said, 'Oh, come at one.' Then Truman said, 'We'll be there at two.' And so I said, 'OK, then we will eat at two.' "

Imagine a flamboyantly gay Capote in Garden City — in 1959.

"There was the whole mystique of Truman Capote," Dolores Hope said. "He was in the news a lot."

Capote was charming and entertaining, telling stories that could enchant. And if he couldn't charm someone, Harper Lee could.

"She just felt like somebody you had known forever," Dolores Hope said. "She came out to the kitchen with me to tell me, 'I think you better give that bird another poke.' "

And the rolls, Clifford Hope interrupted, "She said you should whomp the bottom of the pan."

"We still hear from her quite a lot," Dolores Hope said. "He was very fortunate to bring her along. They were two exceptional people."

Related content