Well, they told me when they hired me that the job would be temporary.
This is the final column of the daily series I began in January of 1947. On Monday, this column will be replaced by a new one written by Bob Levey, and I will write only occasionally.
Levey is no stranger to The Washington Post's readers. He has been covering or editing local news for The Post for 14 years. He is a friend of Children's Hospital and a friend of Heroes Inc. He knows and loves Washington-the-home-town, and in a week you'll love his column. In two weeks you'll have to search your memory if anybody mentions my name.
Bob Levey has covered both of the District committees, the District Building, most of the regional county councils and both the Maryland and Virginia legislatures. But he's more interested in the ordinary people who live here: the guy who delivers junk food to the White House and the guy who tunes pianos at the Kennedy Center. And it's a good thing. Metro editor Bob Woodward says he'll take a baseball bat to Levey if he forgets he's supposed to be a local reporter.
Night city editor Bill Brady, who is too gentle to take a baseball bat to anybody except one who disparges Navy or Notre Dame football teams, has been designated as Levey's personal supervisor. Brady is a tower of strength to reporters who must work against a daily deadline.
Those unfamiliar with newspapers may get the impression that Levey is in need of special supervision. Permit me to dispel that notion.
All of us, gray-haired old men like me and gray-haired young men like Levey, need backstops. We write history under deadline pressure for tomorrow morning's paper. We are human and we make human errors. On a major newspaper like The Washington Post, our copy passes through many hands before it appears in print, and our editors catch 99 percent of our goofs.
I have a feelilng that Levey will need less backstopping than most. He's a fellow who knows that Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue used to be Deane Avenue without the need to look it up. He knows without checking that in the District high school footfall is played on Friday afternoons, in Virginia it is played on Friday nights, and in Maryland it is played on Saturday afternoons.
He is interested in sports of all kinds, most of which he still plays although if he had any sense he'd have stopped 15 years ago. He's turned on by folk music, bluegrass, shoe tunes and classical, in that order. He is a contract bridge freak (life master).
Bob Levey is 36 years old, a resident of Washington, married, and says, "My wife and I are expecting our first child in December." I score two extra points for a guy who says "my wife and I are expecting. . ."
I subtract one point because Levey says he will publish his direct-dial phone number and will welcome telephone calls as well as letters from readers. Anybody who thinks he can answer all the telephone calls that come in while he is trying to write against a deadline is a dreamer, but that's the way it is with young tigers. They do all the things we older and wiser people know are impossible. PERSONAL NOTE
I'd like to add a few personal comments. One is that I must have lost my mind. I am voluntarily giving up a job that has given me tremendous pleasure. It permitted me to say whatever I chose to say without censorship. p
Another is that I am grateful to the editors, copy editors and printers who corrected so many of my errors.
More important, I must bear witness that I worked for 37 years for a company that was unbelievably fair to its employees and aware of its responsibilities to the public and to the profession of journalism. Eugene Meyer and Philip L. Graham were giants I was privileged to know intimately. Katharine Graham, Don Graham, Ben Bradlee, Howard Simons and Bob Woodward are legatees who are worthy of their trust.
I am confident Levey will carry on the great Washington Post tradition. If he doesn't, I'll take a ball bat to him before Bob Woodward can find one.
Finally, I must express my gratitude to all of you who read the District Line with compassion and stimulated my thought processes by writing to me and phoning me. Without you, this column would have petered out after the first week. I love you. If you are as kind to Levey as you were to me, he'll be a lucky man.