Yesterday I was visiting a local hospital and in their cafeteria they have a little charity book shop. A person could either read the book there like a library or buy one on the honor system. Hard backs were 75cents. I am a sucker for used book stores or even just a couple of shelves of them. You never know what little piece of brilliance you will find. I was down to the last shelf and about to give up, there were mostly romance novels and murder mysteries and other stuff I don’t read.
Then I found The Best of Mary McGory; A Half-Century of Washington Commentary.
Mary McGory was a Washington based journalist and institution. She was of that generation who could be friendly with the people she covered and yet still be honest when writing about them. She was a volunteer at an orphanage and every year she would gather all the children and a few DC most important names and host a swim party at Ethel Kennedy’s pool. Presidents, Princes, Senators and anyone else hoping to be accepted in Washington DC courted her. People knew they made it when they were invited to one of her legendary Sunday brunches.
When she began her career in the newspaper business women were relegated to the book review section and Ms. McGory was no exception. Her editor was so impressed with her writing and analysis skills that he sent her to the Army-McCarthy hearings and had her report back her observations. A star was born. Most of her career was spent at the Washington Star and when the paper folded she moved to the Post. In 1974 she was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her columns on Watergate and Richard Nixon.
I was familiar with Mary McGory from her many appearances on Meet the Press and through interviews but I had never read her columns. Leafing through the book I found her column remembering Tip O’Neal after his death and I was blown away by not only what she had to say but how she wrote it. Her remembrance of Thurgood Marshall was equally good and before I knew it I had read about 10 columns. Then I read the jacket flaps and then the table of contents. I had pretty much decided to pay the 75 cent tab for the book when I flipped one more page to a preface written by Maureen Dowd, I clutched my heart, gasped for air and threw a dollar in the money box. It turns out Ms. Dowd was mentored by Mary McGory early in her career.
I have put Don Lemon’s memoirs on the back burner so I can read more of Mary McGory’s columns because Maureen Dowd would expect no less of me.