Further Thoughts On Scotty Reston

DEAR Sally,

Much has been said and written about ''Scotty'' and the extraordinary place he achieved in American journalism. But as a fellow Midwesterner and as one whose admiration of your husband goes back to the early 1930s, I want to add some further words of praise.

Scotty was unvaryingly perceptive, whether he was analyzing struggles among nations or sizing up public figures. He hated pomposity. I loved the way he saw through the stuffed shirts that frequent Washington, particularly the elected officials. He said that too many of them caught what he called ''Potomac fever,'' where they ''ceased to grow'' but, instead, suffered ''swelling of their heads.'' He said they should have learned from their growing-up experiences that they should ''never get too big for their britches'' and ''never forget where they came from.''

Certainly, with all his honors, he remained to the end that sweet, unaffected fellow that his boyhood friends loved. And what honors he had. I note that besides his two Pulitzer Prizes and 28 college and university honorary degrees, his awards include: the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Roosevelt Four Freedoms medal; Commander, Order of the British Empire; the Legion d'Honneur; and the Ordre National de Merite (France).

That's pretty good for a lad who started out in two tiny rooms in a tenement in Scotland where, he says in his memoirs, ''We had a big bed recessed high in the wall of our kitchen in which we all [parents, sister, and little Scotty] slept together after saying our prayers on a long wooden stool at the foot.''

I first met Scotty at an outdoor rally for presidential candidate Ed Muskie in New Hampshire sometime in the fall of 1971. He was wandering around the crowd, talking to people and taking notes. At one point he sauntered over to me and held out his hand and said, ''I'm Scotty Reston.'' As if I didn't know! ''What are you finding out?'' he asked, with his usual modesty. When I got home, I proudly announced that I'd met the person I deemed the most important figure in American journalism.

I had admired Scotty since his college days when as a teenager in Urbana, Ill., I would read all about his accomplishments as a golfer at the nearby University of Illinois. He was captain of the team and a Big Ten champion.

I chuckled at the memorial service when Katherine Graham of the Washington Post recalled how she had witnessed Scotty teeing off at a time in his life when he no longer could give much time to playing golf. Scotty still teed off with power. On that occasion he walloped a long drive ball that hooked wildly and crashed through the window of a home that ordinarily would have been safe from such an accident. ''Whereupon,'' Mrs. Graham said, ''Scotty walked over to apologize for what he had done - but also, I suspect, to retrieve the golf ball.'' Scottish frugality was still one of Scotty's virtues.

My wife Betty and I shall never forget the Saturday with you and Scotty at the University of Illinois football stadium where we cheered the Illini on to victory. At all the events we attended together that weekend we saw Scotty taking pictures. A few days after we returned home, we received a big bundle in the mail: copies of the pictures to help us relive the fun we had shared.

Power and prestige did not change the thoughtful Scotty Reston.

With all his honors, he remained to the end that sweet, unaffected fellow that his boyhood friends loved.

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