- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009


I used to enjoy discussing with Mary Lou Forbes the heady days of real journalism when there were more than two newspapers in Washington and people spent time reading them.

Her firsthand experience covering the battle over school desegregation in Richmond (for which she won the Pulitzer Prize) was a great history lesson from one who was a witness to it.

She spoke often and fondly about her days at the old Washington Star. Each time one of her former colleagues died, we would talk about her remembrances of them.

She and Mary McGrory, the liberal reporter and later columnist for The Washington Post, became friends at a time when female bonding was essential to career advancement in a nearly all-male profession. Although Miss McGrory’s politics were the polar opposite of Mary Lou’s, I never heard her utter a disparaging word about her former colleague.

Next to my mother, Mary Lou Forbes was my biggest cheerleader. She would call or e-mail about something I had written and praise it as if it were really that good. She persuaded me to submit some of my columns for Pulitzer Prize consideration. I told her there was no way I would ever win that prize, even if I was good enough because of the liberal tilt of the selection committee. She persisted, and just because it was her, I submitted an entry. I told her I was so confident I wouldn’t even make the finals that if I did, I would make her house payments for one year. She laughed. I never had to pay up.

Mary Lou had talent and class. She was a lady in a day when that meant something. Every female becomes a woman because of time and biology. Not every woman becomes a lady. That comes about because a woman develops the inner qualities of character, virtue and modesty. Mary Lou had those in abundance.

It is a cliche to say a person who has died will be missed. It’s true of Mary Lou Forbes. I shall miss her. Our profession will miss her because they don’t make many real journalists like her anymore. All who knew her can say “amen.”

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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