Tony Blankley died this weekend after a long battle with cancer. His passing is a sad loss for America, the nation’s capital and The Washington Times, all of which he served with great honor and decency. He was editorial page editor of this newspaper for five years. His example, wisdom and political perspective will continue as guiding lights for the work we do here.
After years in the spotlight, Mr. Blankley achieved that status sought by so many but found by so few: He was instantly recognizable to the man on the street. He wore fame well and never stopped being a self-effacing gentleman. He was committed to responding to all of his correspondence and spent hours of each workday hammering away at the keyboard in discussions with cranky strangers who emailed criticism of his work. It was his view that it is the people who count in a democracy, and if their vote mattered on Election Day, their opinions should be respected every other day at a newspaper.
Mr. Blankley was part of every campaign Ronald Reagan ever ran, and he came to Washington as part of the Gipper’s California team after his election as president in 1980. His career skyrocketed when he served as spokesman for House Speaker Newt Gingrich and became a familiar TV face for the new Republican majority after the historic GOP takeover of Congress in 1994. “Just as I was the first Republican speaker in 40 years, he was the first Republican press secretary for a speaker in 40 years,” Mr. Gingrich said when asked Sunday about Mr. Blankley’s passing by Kerry Picket of The Washington Times in Manchester, N.H. “Tony was a very special person. He was more than a great professional; he was a great human being. He was a caring and loving person. He was a tremendous amount of fun and remarkably erudite and educated and we will all miss him deeply.”
What many don’t know about Mr. Blankley is that before politics, he had a Hollywood career as a child actor. Even though he appeared in such popular shows as “Lassie” and shared the silver screen with legends like Humphrey Bogart, Tony would modestly wave off inquiries about this interesting background with a chuckle. “My toughest line was, ‘The house is on fire! The house is on fire!’ ” he would say, adding that he would rather be known for his love of Shakespeare. Born in London, he retained an emigre’s nostalgia for the land left behind and admired things British, especially literature and history. His father was Winston Churchill’s accountant, and Mr. Blankley’s office was adorned with a wartime poster of the prime minister telling his people, “Deserve victory” – timeless advice Tony believed America needed to heed.
Mr. Blankley’s dedication to journalism and the craft of writing was unmatched. His wife Lynda Davis told us he was working on his half-finished weekly column shortly before he died. This zeal was fueled by his love of country and deep concern for America’s direction. His two books, “The West’s Last Chance” and “American Grit,” both focused on our contemporary crisis but were tempered by hope and faith in the greatness of the United States and our people to turn it around. Mr. Blankley’s intelligence, experience and humanity made him a truly irreplaceable individual. While his family grieves for a missed husband and father, his extended family at The Washington Times is shedding tears of love and support for their fallen friend. Godspeed Tony Blankley. Requiescat in pace.