Alden Whitman Autograph

Whitman was an obituary writer for The New York Times. His My Turn essay is interesting, arguing that we should be more willing to speak ill of the recently dead, especially in obituaries. Per Wokipedia, he had been a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s, and reluctantly testified during the Communist cell investigations of the 1950s, facing charges for contempt of Congress. In light of that, his choice of examples in the essay above are interesting: he starts with a deceased gangster, explaining that we should not be afraid to paint him accurately in an obituary, then moves on to an industrialist (criticized for being a capitalist and wealthy), Truman (too opposed to Communism) and Kennedy (more conservative than his admirers realized) and LBJ. Its the discussion of the latter that gets confusing, as Whitman predictably criticizes LBJ for chauvinistic tendencies and for Viet Nam, but also stating that assuming the Great Society was good “Takes a lot of assuming.”

Nearly all of these are fascinating time capsules.

Received 5/8/1973

“With best wishes to Edward Garbowski – Alden Whitman 7 May 1973”