An obituary in yesterday's paper, that of David H. Scull of Annandale, was accurate, but a bit brisk. It didn't do justice to its subject. That was nobody's special fault.
The reporter who wrote the obituary had done his duty: He asked our library for clippings of news stories that may have appeared about David Scull, but none turned up. They were, it developed on my subsequent inquiry, in the "dead," or outdated, files. Whatever else his status, the 68-year-old Scull was not outdated. He was ahead of his time. And all of us, white and black, are the beneficiaries of his stance.
Though I sometimes dealt with him by telephone as a reporter, I never met the man. But he was quietly heroic--a word, I'm sure, he'd shun.
A Quaker who took his ethics seriously, Scull first came to regional public attention in 1950 when he and three blacks were refused service at a downtown Washington restaurant called Thompson's. That case, on appeal, brought an end to segregation in public accommodations in the nation's capital.
Seven years later, Scull--by then probably Northern Virginia's most outspoken white advocate of racial equality and brotherhood--refused to answer a series of 31 impertinent questions raised by a Virginia General Assembly committee probing what it viewed as subversive efforts to push race-mixing. Those were the days of the Byrd organization's "massive resistance."
Scull was cited for contempt, convicted in Arlington, fined $50 and sentenced to 10 days in jail. The case ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1959 threw out the conviction.
The 19th century educator Horace Mann once said, "Be ashamed to die until you have achieved a victory for humanity." David Scull, it seems safe to say, had no reason to be ashamed.