A look back through kaleidoscope of gratitude

This Christmastime, I'm thinking back on all the wonderful people I have worked with on the Monitor since I joined the paper in 1946.

First, there was John H. Hoagland Sr., manager of the Monitor who previously had been a top executive for the Louisville Courier Journal. I met Mr. Hoagland in Louisville just as I was leaving the military service. After five years in the Army Air Forces, and when I was about to depart for my hometown of Urbana, Ill., to renew the practice of law there. He offered me an opportunity on the nonwriting side of the paper.

In my family and my wife's family there always had been so much respect and admiration for the Monitor. So we weighed our future prospects and decided to "try it out" in Boston, to see if I could "make it" on a paper that was being rated then as No. 1 or No. 2 in the country. If not, we said, we'd go back home where I would reopen my old law office.

Soon Erwin Canham, the Monitor's editor, came into my life. After I had spent a few months in the circulation department, I applied to Mr. Canham for a job on the editorial side. I cited my journalism experience before going into law and, a few weeks later, he brought me onto the copy desk of the paper.

It was not a good assignment for me. Those long hours of reading and editing articles and putting headlines on them didn't fit into my idea of what I wanted to do as a newspaperman. I was restless and wanted to get out - somewhere - and write.

But my three years on that desk weren't wasted; the demanding head of the desk, Harry Hazeldine, worked hard to make me more exacting. So I owe a lot to Harry. But I was happy to escape from that pressure kettle to become an assistant to that much loved American news editor, Saville Davis.

Again I was restless. Saville, a very understanding man, saw that I had little interest in helping to channel articles into the paper. So he tried me out on a couple of writing assignments and then sent me to Chicago to become a reporter in the bureau there.

Before I left, I told Saville that I now was in my late 30s and needed to know whether I really could be fully useful on the Monitor.

So I said: "After one year, will you tell me whether you think I could become a frontline correspondent for the paper? If you can't give me that assurance at that time, I will have to go back to law."

He agreed. But it didn't take long for me to know that I had found my work in life.

Max Gilstrap, the Chicago bureau chief who became a real pal, immediately threw me into big stories. Right away I was sent to Milwaukee to do a full page story on what that city was all about. Then I wrote my first political stories - about congressional races. And - well - the question I had left with Saville never came up. We both knew, I guess, that I had found my place on the paper.

From then on, for me, it was mainly politics, politics, politics: First in Chicago, then New York, and then to Washington in 1965.

My longtime close friend and Monitor editor by then, DeWitt John, brought me to Washington - for which I'll always be grateful.

In Washington, I again worked under Saville Davis, who had become the bureau chief there. What a wonderful fellow! Anyone who knew him will tell you that. He took such joy in seeing the progress of others.

What other boss would have let someone under him put on a breakfast group that brought together the nation's leading journalists and top public figures? I'm sure that most bosses would have told me that was what the bureau chief should be doing - and that I should just go about my assigned work of covering politics. But not Saville. He became my biggest rooter.

I also had the privilege of working alongside a number of superb journalists in the Washington bureau - most notable, that outstanding writer and reporter, Richard L. Strout. When he started to call me "The Charger," I knew I would never have a greater compliment.

Oh, yes, there were so many others on the paper who became firm friends and helped me along the way. But space prevents me from naming them. So please excuse.

However, I must mention the editors, beginning with Erwin Canham, DeWitt John, John Hughes, Earl Foell, Kay Fanning, Richard Cattani, David Cook, and, now Paul Van Slambrouck. All of them have been friends and backers. And I must also mention the son of the man who brought me on the paper - John H. Hoagland Jr. - who, as manager, extended my career back in the early 1980s when bureaucratic rules would have sent me out to pasture.

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