The South and Southern journalism have lost another legendary figure: A.M. “Mac” Secrest, a courageous small town newspaper publisher who stood up for decency when racial tensions in the region were at their peak.

Mac Secrest’s courage in fighting racial segregation was beyond dispute. He was often opinionated and frequently outspoken, and he relished a good argument. But he was also an immensely engaging figure who was loved by many and tolerated even by many of the people who fiercely disagreed with him.

The obituary below, prepared by his son David K. Secrest, a long-time reporter and editor, tells more of Mac’s story:

Andrew M. Secrest

A.M.“Mac” Secrest, who crusaded against segregation as a small-town newspaper publisher in South Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s and later served as a federal mediator in the Deep South during civil rights conflicts in the mid-‘60s, died early Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Secrest, 86, died at University of North Carolina Memorial Hospital after complications from surgery 18 days earlier for throat cancer.

As owner, publisher and editor of The Cheraw Chronicle beginning in 1953, Secrest was a consistent critic of the “massive resistance” strategy employed by many opponents of racial desegregation, after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“Despite harassment that included threats to him and his family, buckshot through the windows of his home and menacing signs placed in his yard late at night, Secrest steadfastly maintained his opposition to discriminatory practices advanced by [U.S.] Sen. Strom Thurmond [of South Carolina] and other segregationists of the era,” according to information printed in the program for his enshrinement in the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame in 2007.

Veteran journalist Hank Klibanoff, whose book, “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation,” co-written with Gene Roberts, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for history, praised Secrest as “a rarity whose courageous editorial voice in the 1950s and 1960s revealed there were cracks in the bulwark of the segregationist South where rational and progressive thinking could survive.”

In the mid-1960s, Secrest worked as a federal mediator with the Washington-based Community Relations Service, first in the U.S. Department of Commerce, then in the Department of Justice, during the civil rights struggle and voting rights marches in the Deep South in such places as Selma, Ala., Pascagoula, Miss., and Bogalusa, La.

He and other mediators would negotiate with such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young and Hosea Williams and local community leaders on one side and Selma Mayor Joe  Smitherman, Sheriff Jim Clark and members of the white establishment on the other.

According to the Journalism Hall of Fame program, “Secrest served as co-chair of the task force that led to the formation” of the CRS “and represented the agency in the racial struggles in Selma, Ala., in 1965, which led to passage of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and 1966.”

Earlier, Secrest had won the Hillman Prize for newspaper journalism in 1957 for editorials on civil rights, the same year as Harry Ashmore of the Arkansas Gazette and a year before Ralph McGill of The Atlanta Constitution won the same prize.

Secrest won a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University for 1960-61 “for his journalistic integrity and his courageous commitment to equality between the races.”

Klibanoff said in an e-mail: “Secrest ran a gutsy weekly newspaper … that had 3,000 subscribers who received a paper crowded and cluttered with stories and opinions. Secrest, who put photographs of African-American servicemen on his front page in violation of newspaper norms, editorially challenged segregationist Southern editors who fiercely advocated massive resistance, upheaval and opposition to the law.

“Aside from the futility of their hysteria, Secrest argued, they were lighting tinder that could start a fire that would soon run out of control.

“He was, of course, right. When it was easier just to stay silent, Secrest accused his brothers inside the fraternity of southern newspaper editors of failing to meet the standards of professional responsibility, and of risking the protections they were granted by the Constitution.

“Remarkably, he held the paper together for 15 years,” Klibanoff said. “Even more remarkably, by remaining civil and not descending to personal attacks, Secrest held the respect of the editors with whom he battled.”

In his self-published memoir in 2004, Secrest wrote of his newspaper experience in Cheraw, S.C.: “While the Chronicle ultimately garnered its fifteen minutes of fame – or infamy – from its stance on race relations, it was equally noted at home for its local news coverage and community service, irrespective of race. The challenge was how to cover the news fairly and accurately and still survive. Supposedly, nothing ever happens in a small town. As it turned out, everything happened in this small town, and people, often already clued in, would read the local newspaper to see how much the editor dared to print.”

After selling the Chronicle, he taught journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for five years. He moved to North Carolina Central University in Durham in 1976 to help establish its Department of Communications and worked there for nine years until he retired.

From before their wedding in 1948, Mac and Ann Secrest were passionate about boxers and owned a succession of eight of them through the decades. His other interests included Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, chocolate, Bette Davis films and Duke basketball. He developed a friendship with Cheraw native and jazz immortal Dizzy Gillespie.

“Mac was brilliant and thoughtful,” said Keith Graham, a former student of Secrest at UNC, whose own journalism career included more than 25 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he was international editor and book editor, among other assignments. “As a teacher, he was kinder than most and genuinely interested in his students. He was really a courageous figure in the South and in Southern journalism.

“Being an advocate for civil rights and civil liberties in his era was tough for anyone, but it was a lot tougher for a small-town newspaperman. But Mac never seemed to view himself as any special kind of hero. I think he just tried to be decent and true to himself.

“And he had a great sense of humor. His popular culture course at UNC quickly became a campus legend because he was an entertaining, if sometimes eccentric, lecturer who seemed to be interested in everything. He wore his learning — and his brave stands — as lightly as anyone I have known. He was fun to be around.

“I was one of many former students who were lucky enough to have him as a mentor.”

Andrew McDowd Secrest Jr. was born Sept. 15, 1923 in Monroe, N.C., the only son and youngest of three children of Andrew M. “Dowd” Secrest and Lessie Covington Secrest. A twin brother died in childbirth.

He followed his older sisters, Mary Covington Secrest and Lillian Asbury Secrest, to Duke University, where he was a graduate in the class of 1944, with one of three degrees he earned from Duke, including a Ph.D in history in 1972.

During World War II, he served in the North Atlantic as an officer aboard the U.S.S. Hammann, a destroyer escort.

After the war and after his 1948 wedding to the former Ann Louise Eastman of Concord, N.H., whom he met in Saranac Lake, N.Y., Secrest worked for newspapers in New York state and in North Carolina, including The Laurinburg Exchange and The Charlotte News.

In  1953, he bought The Chronicle in Cheraw, S.C., where he lived until 1969, except for stints in Cambridge, Mass., in 1960-1961, and Northern Virginia, 1964-66. Over the past 41 years, the Secrests lived in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, the last 13 years at the Carolina Meadows retirement community near Chapel Hill.

Secrest is survived by his wife of nearly 62 years, Ann Louise Eastman Secrest of Chapel Hill; two children, son David K. Secrest of Atlanta and daughter Mary Ann “Molly” Secrest of Westborough, Mass.; daughter-in-law Leslie Hall Fuller “Mindy” Secrest; son-in-law Lawrence Howard Katz; five grandchildren, Richard Phillips “Phil” Secrest, Mary Elizabeth Fuller  “Liz” Secrest and Catherine Ann Simmons Secrest, all of Atlanta; Marion Phillips Secrest Katz of Crookston, Neb., and Abraham Alexander Secrest Katz of Westborough, Mass., currently in Alexandria, Egypt; eight nieces and nephews; 11 grand-nieces and -nephews; and six great-grand-nieces.

Two other children died earlier: Andrew M. Secrest III in childbirth in 1949 and Andrew Phillips “Phil” Secrest because of complications from leukemia at age 21 in 1973.

Family and friends are planning a memorial service for May 22.

In lieu of flowers, contributions could be made to a branch of the leukemia society.

  1. Terri Evans

    Thank you – all involved for sharing this incredible story about an even more incredible man. He will be missed, but his memories and stories will live on. I especially appreciated the idea of how he “wore his learning.” I can imagine and appreciate where your words take my imagination.

  2. Cliff Green

    Linda and I live directly across the street from Mac’s son and daughter-in-law, David and Mindy Secrest. We first met Mac the day his grandson Phil was born. He and Ann came home from the hospital exhausted but in the mood to celebrate. Unfortunately, they could not find a corkscrew in David and Mindy’s house.
    In desperation, Mac knocked on our door.
    We knew Mac by reputation, of course, but neither of us had studied under him. nor were we mentored by him, unlike many other Southern journalists. Our relationship was purely social.
    A long evening, a few glasses of wine, a couple of ideas tossed out…what delightful times we had.
    RIP, old timer.

  3. Condolences to former colleague David and his entire family.

  4. Mike Williams

    Condolences to David and his family. His father was one of the best Southern newspapermen in an explosive time.

  5. I have to admit that I didn’t know much of this about David’s father. What a remarkable person. Our thoughts are with David and his family as they celebrate this well-lived life.

  6. Martha W. Fagan

    What a man. Thank you David for sharing this story of your father and of the fact that he stood up for right at a time when it wasn’t easy — but in doing so took the right stand on the most important moral issue of his generation. Such a loss for you and yours….Love, Grace and Danny

  7. Doug Cumming

    I was lucky to get to know Mac at Carolina Meadows, a sunlit upland of old liberal dinosaurs like him, other emeriti profs from UNC, and his Community Relations Service buddy Calvin Kytle. One of the magical discoveries I made when casting about for a dissertation topic in mass com at Chapel Hill 10 years ago was this enclave of bravehearts, who helped me settle on my topic: the Southern press’s response to Brown v. Board. I actually read Mac’s Ph.D. dissertation from Duke, which was a study of S.C. newspapers’ reaction to the threat of justice being inflicted on a dug-in white South. Since then, I got to read his wild, rambunctious memoir, Curses and Blessings. It inspired me to encourage my daddy to get his old magazine articles self-published, which he did.
    Funny, I was thinking of calling Mac yesterday, not knowing, but maybe sensing. He was on my list of people and places I was going to visit in May with a W&L class I was to haul around on a kind of Freedom Trail through the South – Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville. The course was The Press and the Civil Right Movement. But the class was canceled, for lack of enrollment, and I was calling folks to let them know. An epic history in our land, and its few great characters of the press, fade out and will be missed, but not forgotten.

  8. Melinda Ennis

    Although I had heard the legends about Mac the journalist, I knew him best as a fellow film buff and devotee of Bette Davis. Whenever we got together through the years at family things with the Secrest clan, Mac and I inevitably got into a Bette Davis trivia contest. It’s no wonder he was such a fan, because like Bette, Mac was feisty fighter whose greatest weapon was a precocious wit that he used with flair and aplomb. We also saw it demonstrated with precision in some of the “Mac e-mails” that David K. forwarded to us. One of my favorites was an e-mail during the early days of the last presidential primary when many of us, including moi, were in the thrall of the early John Edwards. Mac however, saw the wolf behind the sheepish grin. I only wish I could have seen Mac’s face the day all was revealed!
    To use a hackneyed phrase, Mac was in the truest sense a gentlman and a scholar. Whenever I encountered him he had that twinkle in his eyes, usually just before he would deliver a surprising zinger on just about any subject you could name. David, Mindy, Ann and Secrest family, we know you will miss him dearly, but he will never be forgotten by
    anyone who was ever able to enjoy the pleasure of his company. We thank you for sharing him with us. I am thinking of him now with a big smile on my face—-and that’s a legacy we should all aspire to.

  9. What at great story! Sorry for your loss.

  10. Eleanor Ringel Cater

    I second all the above. Especially what Jim says about only knowing Mac a bit, but finding him unforgettable. I feel a bit like I’m six degrees of separation (or less0 from a legend.

    And what a beautifully written remembrance. thanks David.

  11. Billy Howard

    I add to my list of regrets never meeting Mac Secrest. What an amazing life. I am sorry for your loss David and Mindy.

  12. Janet Ward

    One of a kind. I feel like we have lost a unique limb from humankind’s tree. From the comments here, I’d say he was something entirely different to different people, an indication of his multiple interests and, though David would roll his eyes, his unparalleled conversational skills.

    This is what he was to me:

    A man who could tolerate — and even participate in — jokes about his toupee.

    A letter writer whose scribbles (both sides of the page and then trailing around the margins) could challenge the most organized mind.

    A conversationalist who would be on my list of the top five people I would agree to be locked inside a room with for a week. His mind was a thing of wonder.

    Someone needs to tell the story about Mac and the mayor of Selma and the car trip.

    I swear I will miss him as much as I miss my own father.

  13. What a beautiful remembrance about such a great man. My condolences to David, Mindy and the rest of the family. Thank you for sharing his story.

  14. David, I’m so sorry about your daddy’s death. He was one of those rare and remarkable people who stood for right when it was difficult. I admire and appreciate him

  15. David – What a remarkable story. While I know how sad the situation is, I’m sure that it would bring your father great joy to read what you’ve written.

  16. What a lovely tribute to a man from his son. What a wonderful life. God bless him for his courage and determination to be, and do, right. .

  17. Rosemary Griggs

    Thank you for sharing his remarkable story. Though I wasn’t fortunate enough to have met him, I can see that his influence has carried over in your wonderful family. As someone said to me when my own father passed, when you miss him the most all you have to do is look in the mirror and there is a big part of him staring right back. So sorry for your loss.

  18. To Dave, Mindy and the kids,
    Remember him well, remember him often … Good men are few and far between, you had one of them.

    Trevor, Janna, John and Stone

  19. David, I’m so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. Heartfelt condolences to you and Mindy and your whole family.
    What a wonderful tribute you’ve written to such a remarkable man. Though I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, or taking one of his classes, I feel as if I got to know him a little through your portrait here — and of course, through all the traits it sounds like you got from him.

  20. Thank you for the wonderful story of your Dad, David. My condolences to you, your Mom, Mindy and your family. Please give all a hug from me.

    I was taken on memories I cherish while reading the story. I have always loved to think of your loquacious and opinionated father holding forth for almost anyone who would stand still, and some who were moving.

    I did so enjoy the times with your family when I was growing older in my younger days.

    Love to you all,


  21. Wow, what a guy. I want to hear more and more stories about him and to read his book. I hope you’ll oblige. For now, sending a little piece of my heart to David and Mindy and all the Secrests. It’s hard to let go.

  22. We’re so sorry to hear of your loss. Reading your wonderful tribute makes us all realize that the loss is all of ours, and even though I never met him, I am inspired by his courage and fearlessness. I hope you’ll all find comfort in your memories of him.

  23. Thank you, David. What a great story of a wonderful, brave life. It was a pleasure to have met Mac (and Ann) on one occasion. I wish we could have been closer and known him and the family better.

    1. Janet Ward

      Oh, Chrys. You said in four words everything everyone else said in more. I know how much you loved him, as did I. I love your comment more than everybody else’s.

  24. Ron Taylor

    David, men like your father are the reason so many of us went into journalism when the profession was still a high calling. The loss is certainly sad, but the much better world he helped make is a joy for us all.

  25. I am grateful and surprised and overwhelmed and pleased by the responses to the obituary I put together on my father.
    It was not meant to be a tribute, per se, any more than any obit is; it was just something that needed to be put together and sent out, because, first, one did not exist, at least that I could find at my parents’ place, and, second, Mac Secrest, in fact, had been “newsworthy” in what he had done in those days.
    The interesting thing to me is that all of the things he did that put him in that category, and all of the work he did then, meant the least to him later. Not that he denigrated it at all, but he just didn’t put any emphasis on it.
    He was much more interested in family and people and conversation — and boxers and bridge and chocolate and old movies and political argument and all of that other stuff that got mentioned.
    That list would and should include so many things that I already have received criticism, from family and friends alike, about specific omissions, including Miss America and fudge-making and fall foliage and cable news channels.
    I would be happy to share some specific moments and anecdotes, as Janet and others suggested.
    For example, my cousin Jim has had something on the Internet for years that involves the toupee and its impact in defusing tension in race-relation negotiations — in Selma, as I recall. I’ll have to find that Web address, or whatever those things are called.
    I didn’t get into the less-than-cordial relationship Daddy had with his Monroe homeboy Jesse Helms, but I would be happy to.
    My father also claims to have instructed Martin Luther King Jr. on the proper pronunciation of “Negro” and on the importance of enunciation, so that when he said it he wouldn’t sound the way ol’ Strom and others did. That one might be in his book; again, I’ll have to check.
    For now, I just want to express appreciation — from myself and on behalf of my father’s large and far-flung family and network of friends –to everyone for being interested and for caring.
    David K.

    1. David — My condolences on your Dad’s passing. He was one of my favorite teachers at the UNC J-school. He didn’t talk that much about himself, though. For instance, he mentioned having some problems with the Klan in Cheraw, but left it at that. Your obit fills in a lot of gaps and shows what a great man he was. Ralph

  26. David, I too am extremely touched by all the comments on this blog, and by your wonderful obituary of your father. Uncle Mac had a huge impact, which when I last corresponded with him a few weeks ago, I reminded him once again. He responded that people generally have very very short memories. For most people, what happened decades ago isn’t nearly as important as what’s happening now, and he seemed skeptical, or at least quite modest, about his own impact. I do hope he knows NOW that, to contradict Churchill, he had much to be IMMODEST about. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” seems to fit perfectly as a theme of his life.

    For what it’s worth, the site I created to promote his book in 2004, is still up at

    and now includes a slideshow set to “My Way.” Mac even sent me things to update the site occasionally.

    The story about his work in Selma, and the humor he brought to that tense environment, is here:

    He recalled his encounters with Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King here:

    It was easier to accept my mother’s death because in her last months, in declining health, she detached and disengaged somewhat. But Mac was so curious, so engaged in life and so vital until the very end. Both my wife and I received lengthy emails from him until just weeks before he passed away. He was one of the few Americans I could talk to in depth about Turkey (where I’m spending a couple of years). He knew the country’s entire history, and he asked incisive questions about Turkey’s Islamic yet secular culture and Turkey’s role in the world now.

    But he was never pedantic. He admitted regularly reading the National Enquirer in the check-out line. A month or two ago, I sent him Andrew Young’s book on his neighbor John Edwards, and he said he stayed up all night devouring it as soon as it arrived.

  27. Mac Secrest was, indeed, and in deed, a remarkable, one-of-a-kind man in so many ways. Like David, I have been overwhelmed and gratified in reading and re-reading the tributes to Mac. He, too, would have been pleased, while at the same time pooh-poohing all of the fuss. To me, he was first and foremost a man who put family and friends above all else.

    I first met Mac in early 1970, at Duke, when he and David picked me up at my dorm for my introductory dinner with the family. Mac had sold The Cheraw Chronicle the previous year and had returned to Duke for his doctoral work. (Amazingly coincident with his son Phil’s entry to Duke as a freshman in the fall of 1969? No.) I was placed in the front seat next to Mac; and on the drive to their home in Chapel Hill, first off came the toupee to be placed on the seat in between us, and then out came the tube of Preparation H from the glove compartment. My first “tests” — and only many years later was I to learn that the toupee and Prep H incidents had played an inadvertent part in Mac’s diffusing of racial tensions years earlier during his mediation days, for Mac rarely spoke of his own role in those events, and then only if probed.

    There soon followed extended family beach weeks at North Myrtle Beach, which included the cousins and girlfriends, and Mac’s renting of motel rooms with color t.v.’s, so that we could all watch and mock the Miss America pageant, while drinking Cold Duck and clasping hands in mock adoration of the contestants. A long-standing family tradition, apparently.

    Among his many talents, Mac Secrest (a self-proclaimed chocolate-ophile) made the best deep dark, creamy chocolate fudge that ever melted on the tongue. Fudge-making was a serious endeavor, as well as a competition (for Mac was ever competitive), requiring the best chocolate and lots of vigorous beating to ensure its creaminess. Of all of the many gifts over the years, I think my favorite was the tin of fudge that Mac made for me two Christmases ago.

    Mac was ever engaged and interested in current events, in music and in young people. One week-end visit to his and Ann’s NC mountain cabin a number of years ago with our three kids, our kids asked if they could borrow his CD player to play some of their CD’s. ” Of course,” he replied, but on the condition that “you play a song, and then you have to listen to one of mine from my era.” Phil, Catherine and Liz put on (of all things) Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” Mac listened intently, smiled, then rifled a minute or two through his own prodigious collection of CD’s, and played Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the same song, recorded so many years earlier. We were flabbergasted. To the delight of those grandchildren, he then proclaimed (contrary to his view that no good music has been written since the 40’s) that he preferred Otis Redding’s rendition.

    A number of years ago, Mac’s wife Ann and I hit upon the idea of buying Mac a computer for Christmas, so we did. In those initial days, Mac would call me at the office to complain that we were shortening his life. He had hired a teacher to help him learn how to use the computer, and would take an anti-anxiety pill before his lessons. Then, bingo, he got it and of course mastered it quickly. With his ever-inquisitive mind, he loved the new “virtual” world and the ability to look up anything and to communicate instantaneously with friends and family and complete strangers. The longstanding tradition of TBM (torture by mail) (lengthy handwritten letters, with handwriting around the margins and continued on the flaps of envelopes) morphed into TBEM (torture by email), in Mac’s lengthy emails to all, on history, current events, the virtues of music and movies from his era, and so much else. With his nephew Jim’s help, he created his own Facebook page and hoped to the oldest man on FB. He continued to want to engage in debate about the times.

    In what seems only a few years back, Mac was called by UNC out of retirement to finish teaching a class for one of his former colleagues who himself, at that time, was battling a terminal cancer. Mac did teach that class, and wrote a lengthy “rap” for his students on then current events and to engage with them in their lingo and in their times.

    There are so many more Mac stories. He was one of a kind. I miss him now and will miss him always, and always will be grateful for having been drawn, like so many, into his family and far-flung circle. Mac never met a stranger, and always found a common ground. And yes, being the perceptive man he was, he was always right.


  28. What beautiful tributes for an amazing life.

  29. Janet Ward

    You reminded me of the time Bill and I brought Dooley to the cabin. Dooley, our collie, was a gentleman. But Mac’s boxer, was it Cammie or one of the myriad other boxer chicks that Mac had?, was, as Mac said, a slut, who, in heat, lifted her leg over Dooley’s snout, though Dooley was too polite to respond like a dog might have. As Mac said, she was just a “tart”.

    We spent the night playing Password with Mac and Ann and fell asleep reading The Mill and the Floss, which was one of the books they had in their spare bedroom.

  30. Sincerest condolences, David, to you and your family. Your father sounds like a rare man. Clearly you were heavily influenced by a brave and decent true newspaperman.

  31. One of my favorite memories of Mac Secrest involves the time Tom and I were planning on visiting the family manse in Carrboro. I called, and Mac gave me detailed directions, including the note about a stop sign near the house. “But don’t stop there, it makes no sense whatever that they’ve put a stop sign in that location. I never stop there, and neither should you,” Mac directed. And so, as a matter of conscience, I did not stop.

  32. Didn’t know Mac but he sounds like a legend. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful man who also happens to have raised one of my all-time favorite editors. David K., Anna and I send our condolences to you and your family.

  33. David, Your dad sounds remarkable. In the cafeteria at 72 Marietta, you once detailed to me how your father made fudge. I was so intimidated by all the effort and stirring that you described that I gave up any plans to ever attempt my own batch. Your dad set a standard that I couldn’t match. Now, I discover that he also set the standard in many other ways. He sounds incredible. How wonderful for you to have such a father and your kids to have such a grandfather.
    Bo and I send our sympathy.

  34. I’ll join the swelling chorus in saying that though I did not have the honor of meeting Mac, I can see through these posts the excellence of his Life.
    And I also have the very great priviledge of knowing one of the great accomplishments of Mac and Ann: their son and daughter in law, David K. and Mindy. You always have and always will carry on the legacy.

  35. Incredible tribute, David. My sympathy for you and your family’s loss… as well as my appreciation for sharing such wonderful stories about a man who clearly will continue to touch so many.

  36. David…As always, I’m late to the conversation. All the years we worked together and somehow I had no idea of your father’s remarkable life and story. My best to you, Mindy and your family as you mourn his passing but celebrate his rich legacy. We need more heroes these days who stand up for the ideals of fighting intolerance, greed and abuse of power. We need more Macs. Sadly, journalism is fast fading as a profession for heroes, which leads me to wonder where the next generation of potential Macs will come from. We need them now more than ever.

  37. Sorry to hear of your father’s passing. Sounds like a wonderful fellow and a role model to follow after. Hope you and your family are well.

  38. David, from the first days that I knew you and connected I knew you came from good stock as we say. Thank you for sharing so much of who he was in addition to the courageous hero at such an important turning point for our nation. You and your family have my deepest sympathy. Thanks again for sharing your Daddy in this way.

    1. Margaret,
      These writings describe a real hero of our times, and one who likely never recognized himself as such. I wish I had known him. How fortunate you were to have shared his life in some way!

  39. We all miss Uncle Mac, Daddy, Bum-Daddy, Mac etc. so much! It is shocking that he is not physically here with us anymore, but his spirit and influence will be with his family and friends forever. I think what I have always so loved and appreciated was his love for all of us and belief in the best of us-add to that hilarious sense of humor, a willing ear, and deep interest in life and people. Always up on the latest news, with opinionated commentary, UM always weighed in. And he was forever young, though not one of those who tried to be cool. He recognized generation gaps, but I think we always felt like he was a friend as well as a mentor, father, grandfather, uncle, and role model. And he had plenty of reason to think highly of himself but he never took himself that seriously. I have always loved all of the “mocks;” (and will continue to) Miss America with hag awards and home ec major comments, Jesse Helms, movie mags, and many more. I also appreciated the spirit with which he, Ann Ann, our mother, “Mary Cov,” and Aunt Lil always brought their children up to treat cousins as siblings-how wonderful to have an extended family such as ours with a deep sense of loyalty and love for one another. And of course, Aunt Ann is a huge part of this picture. Mac and Ann have set the stage for mandatory attendance at all family reunions, and if there hasn’t been one for awhile, a reason must be created. Weddings, major birthday parties, college graduations, book signings-everything warrants a celebration; bring out the wine, the toasts, and family stories and pictures. I was pulling up recent e-mails from Mac, and was so touched about his remembering our son Chris on his birthday on February 17-saying lots of good things about him despite Mac’s deteriorating health, painful and uncomfortable symptoms etc. I also will never forget when Mac’s book was published. No one was left out.. I was in the Atlanta airport on the way back from a conference in Italy, and called home. Chris, age 11, stated, excitedly: “Mom, the most exciting thing has happened! Uncle Mac’s book came in the mail today and on page 349, he talks all about Grandma breastfeeding you!”
    I gave Uncle Mac a copy of Ted Kennedy’s memoirs, “True Compass” for his birthday this past September. He “regifted” it to me for Christmas with a sweet inscription. I am reading the book now, because I see Mac as a patriarch of our family who will continue to live on in spirit and as a part of all who knew him.
    Okay, I’m starting to go on, like UM, so will sign off for today. To be continued…Love, Mary Ann

  40. I found this in the Boston Globe archives, featuring Uncle Mac and his sense of humor… He got a huge kick out of this.

    Sunday, July 15, 2001


    Knowing that I am considering writing a story on Ivy League dating services and Web sites, my uncle recently sent me the personal ads from the back of Harvard magazine. You might call them “Smarty Pants Seeks Smarty Pants.”

    The ads are hilarious – unintentionally, of course. But it is my uncle’s scribbled marginalia that is even funnier. At 77, he is the definition of “curmudgeon.” He still teaches at a university, where he recently entertained his journalism class with an original hourlong rap – the entire thing rhymed – on how to write.

    Anyway, in the back of a recent issue of Harvard, one classified ad swoons: “Loving, beautiful former model, ballet dancer, 5’6, curvaceous size 4. Professional. Three Ivy degrees. Financially independent. Interested in family, friends, culture, travel, reading, movies, outdoors. Cares deeply to share emotional and physical touching, integrity, enthusiasm, maturity, thoughtfulness” blah blah blah “with similar man, 45-65.”

    My Uncle Mac responds (in the margin only): “Aging, forgetful, bald and half-blind man interested in practically nothing and no one and to whom life is becoming rapidly meaningless and empty, lacking in good sense and good health, bankrupt (morally and financially), seeks slinky, sleek, rich (old money preferably) blonde babe bombshell with three Ivy League degrees to care for and comfort me the rest of my life – for absolutely nothing.”

    It should be noted that my uncle is happily married to my Aunt Ann and has been for 52 years. A Southerner, he’s turned off by what he considers these here Yankee-type ads.

    “You won’t find any of this crass crap in Duke, Virginia or UNC alumni magazines,” he writes me. “It’s not a Southern thing.” (Can you imagine Scarlett describing herself as a “passionate belle with 21-inch waist who singlehandedly saved my own plantation from ruin, seeking southern gent with buckets of money, to use and abuse.”)

    Another ad from a woman describes herself as “tall, slender, dark-haired, passionate, charismatic.” She’s also divorced. As my uncle notes, sardonically: “Why did anyone ever let her go?”

    Then there’s the self-described “Extraordinary Widow.” Her ad is endless. It’s full of words like “doer, cheerful, fun, fit, affluent, attractive, refined yet unpretentious, confident, secure, successful, great shape, excellent listener, loyal, unselfish, supportive, loving, positive, happy. Terrific cook, loves animals, nature, music, entertaining, hiking” and so on and on and on. She “values high ethics, integrity, respect, kindness, sincerity, reverence of life.” OK, we get the point. She’s seeking the same in a “super bright, marriageable gentleman.”

    (My uncle advises: “Die and go to heaven. She’ll never find an earthling to match herself.”)

    Of another widow who reveals that she is “at home among academics since birth,” Uncle Mac replies: “Well, nobody is perfect.”

    Of those who advertise that they have “traveled the world,” he asks, “Isn’t, doesn’t, hasn’t everyone?”

    To those who describe their “phenomenal legs,” their “unstudied elegance,” their “dazzling aquamarine eyes,” or claim that they are “Renaissance men” (or women), Uncle Mac pleads: “Is there any hope for average, ordinary, mediocre, normal people to find romance?”

    One woman perhaps fits the bill; she says she is “fascinated by hardware stores.” Another is looking for a man in his 60s who wants to visit the Great Barrier Reef and Machu Picchu. (Uncle Mac warns: “A 65-year-old man is more likely to be concerned with constipation and prostate than international travel.”)

    My favorite is the ad that begins: “Immense natural beauty, intellectually rich mind. Ph.D. who has lived on four continents.” She adds: “Unpretentious.” Right. Do any of these people know the meaning of “vain?” It’s in the dictionary, right between “vacuous” and “vapid.”

    Uncle Mac did not like the young woman who said she has “unquestionable appeal” and then went on to describe herself as a liberal Democrat. “Another reason I’ve shifted to the right,” he notes.

    Throughout all these ads, there are references to various Ivy League colleges and degrees, as if they’re the Holy Grail of the dating scene. Give me a smart, cute guy from the University of North Carolina any day over some arrogant Harvard know-it-all. (No, I am not an embittered person who was once rejected by Harvard. I would have been, but I never applied there. And yes, I did graduate from UNC.)

    My uncle isn’t an embittered slouch, either. Well, at least he’s not a slouch. He got his doctorate from Duke and did a fellowship at Harvard (hence the magazine).

    At the top of the last page of ads, he summarizes: “I sure wish I had students who could write this creatively.”

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people just told the plain truth in their ads? Like, “SWM, 45, who can eat a gallon of ice cream at a sitting, who tries hard not to belch (or worse) in public, who has only been arrested once for a `youthful indiscretion’ years ago, who enjoys drinking Bud, watching bowling on TV, going to Bruins games. Given to moodiness, which is nicely controlled by Prozac. Seeks good-natured gal with big breasts to share TV dinners and sex with. Blondes only.”

    Wonder if he’s ever been to the Great Barrier Reef or Machu Picchu.

    Bella English writes from Milton. She can be reached at 617-929-8770 or via e-mail at [email protected]

    1. I remember this article and thought it was hilarious and typical Uncle Mac when it came out! Thanks for sharing! M.A.

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