| 13 March 2010
My most unforgettable memory of Dewitt Wallace dates from my first visit to Pleasantville as editor of the South African Edition in 1972.
What a trip it was for those of us coming from the far flung corners of the Digest world, treated royally from the moment we stepped into a limo at JFK, our every wish granted by our gracious hosts and hostesses. I was given the choice of commuting from New York, city boy that I was, and planted myself in the Algonquin for an entire month. The great and genteel days of the Digest, indeed!
Felicity Mead and her staff meticulously planned our schedules, both work and play. On one of my daily notations: “Meeting with DeWitt Wallace.” (click Read More above)
I cannot exaggerate the awe one felt at meeting Mr. Wallace personally. Of course, you had walked down “Murderers’ Row” where the top editors held sway, and on the rare occasion caught a glimpse of the man himself. Now, you stepped into the corner office for a one-on-one with DeWitt Wallace, who’d just been honored with a White House dinner celebrating the Digest’s 50th birthday.
What blew me away at the meeting was this: Before joining the Digest, I was a newspaperman in South Africa, one of my jobs being editor of The Post, which served the black community, so I had a ground-level view of apartheid. After pleasantries, Mr. Wallace started to quiz me about South Africa, asking questions and showing insights that amazed me. He’d obviously done his “homework,” as consciously as a young editor had prepped himself for crossing that threshold.
Before the meeting ended, Mr. Wallace asked me to keep him informed about events in South Africa, which I did in an annual letter: Our meeting that day helped me set the editorial tone for the South African Digest for years to come, one in which we did a remarkable job of prodding away at the underbelly of apartheid with subtlety and surety.
I was lucky to have two very dear friends of the Wallaces as mentors, Katharine and Francis Drake. In a letter to me, Katharine wrote of the Digest’s 50th celebration: “Accolades fell thick and fast around the Wallaces throughout February (1972) and I know of no international acclaim more richly-merited. Visualizing the Free-World without those famed R.D. Editions is like visualizing an open-hearth bereft of logs and kindling…”
I can’t agree more.
(Errol has a page devoted to the Digest on his website. It is part of his James A. Michener archives.)
|< Prev||Next >|