In the normal course of events, this column would have been edited by William J. Brady, a man whose clear journalistic vision and deft editing hand would have filtered out any errors he detected and any excesses of my judgment. Today I've intentionally bypassed Bill because, as of today, he's retiring.

Brady's 39 years in Washington print journalism have been a big plus. His retirement will be a loss to veteran writers like me, to youngsters coming up in the craft who have trained under him and, most of all, to readers of this paper.

Since 1955, when he gave up a reporter's typewriter to become an editor, Brady has worked the night shift on the local desk, most recently and effectively as the night metropolitan editor, overseeing coverage of those events that require the fastest reportorial agility and sharpest writing skills.

This bluff, cigar and pipe smoking, almost unflappable guy has the look of Irish all over his face -- after all, all four grandparents were born on the Old Sod -- and if you didn't know he was a newspaperman, you'd likely take him to be a police commissioner in a place like Boston.

Geographically if not professionally, you wouldn't be far wrong. Brady was born 65 years ago in New London, Conn., attended local schools and Notre Dame University, graduating just in time to enter the Navy in World War II. He served on a destroyer in the Pacific.

Afterward, partly because a sister lived in Washington, he came here and fell prey to the newspaper bug that had bitten him in his teens. He applied first at The Washington Post and then at The Evening Star, where the editors told him to get some minor-league experience.

The Washington Times Herald, then Washington's most widely circulated newspaper, was scarcely minor league, but it hired him. He became a standout rewrite man, writing bannerline stories about the 1950 assassination attempt on President Truman, the Puerto Rican revolutionists' shoot-up of the House of Representatives and the time the Congressional Limited spectacularly failed to stop at the end of the track at Union Station and fell through to the basement. When this newspaper bought the Times Herald, he went to work for The Post.

Brady, who lives in Annandale with his wife and two sons, plans to read, travel and relax. And I expect to remember every day when Bill would finish reading my column and say to me -- five years his junior -- "Okay, son, you're clear."