Jack Anderson: An Appreciation

The muckraking outsider never gave a damn about entree

When Leonard Downie, the editor of the Washington Post, decided to kill the column after it had run in the paper for several decades, he disrespectfully commented: "I think it has run its course." A colleague of Jack’s, whom the Post informed because Anderson was overseas at the time, had to scurry to find Anderson so that he would not find out the news by reading it in the newspaper. It is sad to say, but to take on the powers to be before the pack has joined in means you will always also be disdained by some of your peers.

One last personal note: Don't ever put off visiting those people who have been part of your life when they are seriously ill. You will very much regret it. Though I knew that Jack was so sick, I kept putting off plans to go over to his home to visit with him because of deadlines at work and family obligations.

I did have a nice chat with him over the phone not too long ago; although he was bed-ridden, he sounded like he was enduring the ravages of Parkinson’s with considerable grace and humor. We talked for a long, long while, and the conversation was, and will remain, mostly private.

But one thing sticks out, and he would not mind me sharing. After I stopped working for him, he was somewhat disappointed, but always left the door open to come back. I had a college degree to try to earn, and, later, jobs that paid real money. Virtually every time we spoke, he would say, "So, I haven’t seen you in the office in the while." He said it a year after I had left. And then he said it a decade after I had left. Halfway through our very last conversation, he said once again: "So, I haven’t seen you around the office for a while."

Then Jack grew tired, and he told me quite ceremoniously that he was going to have his feeding tube replaced. "A great moment in history! Columnist to have feeding tube replaced," he said. But he was indeed there for so many great moments in history, even sometimes shaping history itself.

And then someone—a family member, a nurse, I'm not sure—entered the room. Jack said he had to go. It was too soon. He had to go too soon, and he was gone too soon.

I will deeply miss him.

Murray Waas is a Washington journalist. He blogs at http://whateveralready.blogspot.com.

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