Herman (Blackie) Blackman, 65, a retired copy editor with the metropolitan desk of The Washington Post where he worked for nearly 30 years until 1982, died Sept. 2 at Holy Cross Hospital after a heart attack. He had a kidney ailment and diabetes.
Mr. Blackman came to The Post in 1953 as a copy editor in the sports department. He later was a sports reporter, news desk makeup editor and assistant news editor, and was an assistant city and suburban editor. But for more than a decade, he was a copy editor for the paper's metro section.
The job of a newspaper copy editor is widely and justly regarded in the newsroom as both demanding and thankless. As a matter of routine, the copy editor, the last person to see copy before it is set into type, is expected to be an expert on all issues dealt with by the newspaper. In addition, it is assumed that the copy editor also is an infallible authority on any and all matters of English style, grammar and usage.
Beyond demonstrating these attributes each day and at a pace that offers scant opportunity for contemplation or reflection, the copy editor must also write headlines: sometimes two or more for each story, sometimes new ones for each edition.
They must summarize the story, accurately and concisely. They must fit the space assigned, and they must in a few words seize the attention and interest of the reader.
This was Mr. Blackman's assignment for more than 10 years, during which the newspaper continued to expand and the flow of stories to his desk continually increased, but deadlines remained unyielding.
Colleagues recalled Mr. Blackman in particular as an editor who never hesitated to question authority or feared to point out those emperors who lacked wearing apparel. He also helped new reporters and editors learn the ropes. While he could demonstrate exasperation at mistakes by polished journalistic veterans, he made countless visits to area schools where he patiently explained to students just how newspapers were supposed to work.
Along the way, he became one of the more colorful characters in the newsroom. He was nearly always enormously entertaining. He would insult and make sporting wagers with almost anyone, pretend not to know just who the paper's ranking editors were yet somehow knew what everyone else -- including his coworkers, and everyone from the copy aides to the night cleaning crew -- was up to.
On a morning paper copy editors' shifts extend well past midnight, and require patience as well as endurance. Activity comes in frantic bursts, interspersed with periods of waiting. These periods Mr. Blackman put to excellent use.
Disguising his voice, he made calls around the newsroom, challenging the other editorial staff members with such burning questions, purportedly posed by members of the public, as "When does duck hunting season open in the District?"
Mr. Blackman, who lived in Bethesda, was born in Staunton, Va., and grew up in Rocky Mount, N.C. He attended North Carolina State University and Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.
During World War II he served in the Army in Europe as a tank commander. Before moving to this area and joining The Post, he was an editor and reporter with newspapers and radio stations in West Virginia.
He was a member of the Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, and The Newspaper Guild. He had been active in the Post Speakers' Bureau for many years. His enthusiasms ranged from Richard M. Nixon and well-written suspense novels to any athletic teams whose uniforms bore the legend: North Carolina State.
His wife, the former Edith Mae Cohen, died in 1984. Survivors include three sons, Bruce R., of Severna Park, Barron S., of California, and Robert S., of Raleigh, N.C.; a sister, Sylvia Waters of Newport News, Va., and two grandchildren.
KARL HALS MICHELET,
83, a retired attorney with the Washington Gas Light Co. and a former associate with the Washington law firm of Jackson, Grey & Laskey, died Sept. 3 at Frederick Memorial Hospital after a stroke.
Mr. Michelet, who lived in Frederick, was born in White Earth, Minn. He graduated from Princeton University and earned a law degree from Harvard University.
He moved to the Washington area in 1919. He began his legal career in 1935 as an attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. He had a private law practice from 1936 until 1952, when he joined the legal staff at Washington Gas Light Co. He retired in 1969. For the next seven years, he was an associate with Jackson, Grey & Laskey.
Mr. Michelet had been active with the Montgomery County chapter of the American Red Cross, the Friends of Clara Barton and the Arthritis Foundation.
Survivors include his wife, Silence Wilson Michelet of Frederick; two daughters, Silence Michelet Lowell of Ithaca, N.Y., and Maren Michelet of Denver; one son, Robert W. Michelet of Los Altos, Calif.; one brother, Paul D. Michelet of Harrisonburg, Va., and five grandchildren.