Harsch: Man Of History

JOSEPH C. HARSCH remembers the first copies of The Christian Science Monitor being delivered to his parents' home in Toledo, Ohio, in 1908. He was three years old.

Shortly after, he had a glimpse of the paper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy. The Harsch family was in Boston and went to Mrs. Eddy's Chestnut Hill home to see her go for her daily drive in her horse-drawn carriage. Joe remembers a smile and a little wave of the hand from Mrs. Eddy.

Thus began an association with the Monitor that has lasted the length of the newspaper's existence.

Mr. Harsch became a reporter for the Monitor in 1929, beginning a journalistic career that took him everywhere. He was in London in 1939 when Britain declared war on Germany, then in Berlin as the first correspondent to cover both sides of the war, and in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

At the end of World War II, he started writing a column for the Monitor that continued until a few years ago. Though Harsch straddled the world of print and broadcasting, working at various times for each of the major American networks, he never, as he says in his just-published autobiography, ``At the Hinge of History,'' broke his connection with the Monitor.

When I became editor of the Monitor in 1970, I hired Harsch as chief editorial writer. He knew the issues. He knew the players. To his superb journalistic skills, he added a unique dimension - a sweeping sense of history that enabled him to interpret events in historical perspective.

When I called him to confirm a few points for this article, we were soon onto Clinton's foreign policy, and Joe was sprinkling the conversation with historical references and comparisons. He began not with FDR, or Jimmy Carter, but with Carthage, the ancient Phoenician city-state that came to a bad end in 146 BC.

As journalist Joe Fromm says in a foreword to Harsch's new book, ``Few journalists have contributed so much to their profession - or to the pleasure of their friends and colleagues.''

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