Those who remember Charles W. "Chuck" Bailey in his two successful post-World War II careers- as a journalist and a popular novelist-will join his family and friends next week at a memorial service in Washington, DC. I was neither family nor friend, nor professional colleague over his 82 years. Still, I shall be among those attending the service to pay homage to a man I met only in his last few years, and whom I knew primarily as a fellow sufferer of Parkinson's disease.
Washington newspapermen knew Chuck as editor of a major Midwestern daily of the time, The Minneapolis Tribune, and, later, for his involvement with National Public Radio. Chuck managed to combine deadline journalism in the 1960s with a new career which combined journalism and writing popular novels (with co-author Fletcher Knebel). Their acclaimed 1963 best-seller "Seven Days in May," detailing a near-successful plot to overthrow the government, became a film the following year.
By the time of his death, Chuck had faded from public memory. Among a dwindling number of aging Washington correspondents, however, Chuck was best known as a journalist for his dispassionate attention to detail and factual accuracy. A small number of Parkinsonians met regularly to debate issues, and it was the members of this group who noticed finally that Chuck Bailey- although he listened intently to the arguments of his colleagues- no longer spoke. Appeals to Chuck from his colleagues went unheeded or rebuffed with a sphinx-like silence. It was several months of such silence before, surprisingly, one day Chuck spoke, in a whisper to be sure, but, none-the-less, an end to the silence.
From that point, Chuck Bailey took on a new role in this group, as mediator in charge of settling arguments. Shouted disagreements would end in appeals from the group to Chuck, their Midwestern Buddha, whose barely whispered incantations were sufficient to quell argument. The intense, rhetorical volley which the speakers had relished in previous years gave way most often to gentle arguments amidst an agreeable group of friends seeking consensus.
Then one day when we arrived for our weekly discussion, we found that Chuck had been moved to a location in another state, closer to his family, but no longer reachable to the colleagues in our group. A few months later, we received announcement of his demise. Undoubtedly, Chuck had filed his final copy and, unsentimental to the end, had moved on to his next assignment.