George H.W. Bush, James Baker among attendees at packed church for the Enron founder; reverend compares fallen energy titan to Jesus.
HOUSTON (Reuters) -- Houston's political and business leaders, including former President George H.W. Bush, turned out for Kenneth Lay's memorial service Wednesday, less than a week after the Enron founder's sudden death.
Friends and family lauded as a devout Christian and family leader the man who built Enron into an international energy powerhouse before its collapse in the biggest corporate scandal of its time.
Lay's stepson David Herrold told the nearly full First United Methodist Church that Lay was wrongly convicted, and he was angry about the portrayals of his stepfather in the media.
"He did have a strong faith in God and I know he's in heaven, and I'm glad he's not in a position anymore to be whipped by his enemy," Herrold said.
Lay, who was 64, died while vacationing in Colorado on July 5, just six weeks after a jury convicted him and former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling of conspiracy and fraud in the 2001 collapse of the energy company.
Lay was found guilty of 10 counts of conspiracy, fraud and misusing personal bank loans on May 25 and was facing decades in prison at his sentencing, which was scheduled for Oct. 23.
Lay was a longtime friend of the Bushes, contributing to their political campaigns and was nicknamed "Kenny Boy" by President George W. Bush.
The former president and his wife Barbara entered and exited the church by a rear exit and did not speak to the media.
Among the other luminaries at the service were former Secretary of State James Baker, former Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher Sr., several corporate heads such as Reliant Energy Inc.'s Joel Staff, and baseball team owner Drayton McLane.
The ceremony started slightly late after former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier collapsed in the aisle as he entered the church. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and an announcement made later in the ceremony said he was in stable condition.
Lay was cremated in Colorado, where a memorial service was held for him on Sunday. Skilling attended that service but was not seen at the Houston memorial.
One former Enron employee wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Enron's crooked "E" logo came by the First Methodist Church of Houston but did not attend the service. She said she came out of respect for Lay.
"He was a good person who did a bad thing. Justice was served by finding him guilty," said Marie Watkins, a former tax analyst who worked with Lay at Enron and Florida Gas for 27 years. She said she lost 90 percent of her retirement portfolio when the company imploded.
The Reverend Dr. Bill Lawson compared Lay with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus Christ, and said his name would eventually be cleared.
"He was taken out of the world right at the right time," he said. "History has a way of vindicating people who have been wronged."
Quotes from Ken Lay's memorial service
"(Like Jesus Christ) he was crucified by a government that mistreated him," said Reverend Dr. William Lawson.
HOUSTON (Reuters) -- Family and friends of Ken Lay gathered at a memorial service on Wednesday to eulogize the Enron Corp. founder and former chairman, who died last week.
The following are excerpts from the tributes.
David Herrold, Lay's stepson: "I am angry because of the way that he was treated in the last five years of his life ... and I'm feeling a lot of joy ... He had a lot of loving friends ... He did have a strong faith in God, and I know he's in heaven. And I'm glad he's not in a position any more to be whipped by his enemy."
Reverend Dr. William Lawson: "He reached out to touch many people from many backgrounds ... many economic levels ... that included minorities like me."
"Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, but I'm angry because Ken Lay was a victim of a lynching."
"The folks who don't like him have had their say. I'd like to have mine ... (Like Jesus Christ) he was crucified by a government that mistreated him."
Ray Phillips, Lay's brother-in-law: "I cried when he was falsely convicted. One thing I know is he was innocent. Ken always took the high road and looked for the best in everyone."
"My entire family suffered a severe financial loss. Not one of us blamed Ken because we know he did everything he could to keep it from happening."
Mick Seidl, longtime friend: "Overzealous federal prosecutors have vilified an exceedingly good man ... They did so without visible efforts to seek the truth, and the media piled on. It was total character assassination ... I do know Ken would never intentionally do anything illegal."
Reverend Steve Wende, pastor at First Methodist Church of Houston which Lay attended: Lay was "in many ways a great hero to me."
"At the height of his power and position ... he used the position to lift others up."