Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
Mary Lou Forbes, an institution, an editor, and a friend, is gone. She died of cancer at age 83 and worked until the end.
I was her colleague when I worked at the Washington Times in 1987, where I also had the privilege of working with the late, great Tony Snow, who died of cancer at age 53, and deputy editorial page editor Ken Smith, who also died of cancer at age 41.
Later Mary Lou became my editor at the Commentary section. I was shocked to read she was that old, because quite literally she worked and thought and sounded like perhaps somebody in her mid-fifties.
While we all know about how when somebody dies they suddenly become a wonderful person, Mary Lou was wonderful all along. I have no special anecdotes to relay; she was just a really and truly sweet person. When I last saw her two weeks ago at the annual Competitive Enterprise Institute dinner she was engrossed in a conversation, so I just squeezed her shoulder with my hand and smiled at her. I wouldn't do that with most of my editors.
It was really only quite recently that I discovered that she had won a Pulitzer back when winning a Pulitzer really meant something.
That was in 1959 for her coverage of the Virginia school-desegregation crisis. State and local officials bitterly opposed the integration of public schools after the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., ruling. "Integration anywhere means destruction everywhere," declared a defiant Virginia Gov. J. Lindsay Almond Jr. in a 1958 inaugural address that Mary Lou reported on for the now-defunct Washington Star.
Mary Lou was also a mentor to many a budding journalist, including a a fellow named Carl Bernstein, who sang her praises in a very nice Washington Times obit on her by my former editor Don Lambro. As Commentary editor, wrote Lambro, Mary Lou "published a veritable Who's Who of conservative columnists and other writers, including government leaders and think-tank experts who spanned a wide range of policymaking and political thought."
I'm so proud to have been a Mary Lou Forbes "Who." And so sad that this great lady has passed from our midst.