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ACROSS THE YEARS: Memories of a Virginian by Virginius Dsbney

ACROSS THE YEARS: Memories of a Virginian


Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday

Recollections by the longtime editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (1936-69), a mildly liberal spokesman for the New South in the Thirties, a proponent of cautious, token integration in the Fifties--though forced to tacitly support massive resistance in print. That conflict, resolved finally by a shift in the paper's policy (resignation appeared impracticable), is the only one that seems to have seriously ruffled this comfortably arranged, anything-but-quixotic life. ""V"" Dabney--named for a grandfather who was named after the state--grew up in Charlottesville where his father taught history at the university (and steeped his children in languages), and his mother cultivated people and supported good causes. He attended Eton-ish Episcopal High and, as a matter of course, the University of Virginia, both distinguished for him by their honor systems. ""It never occurred to me that I should read any books except those assigned me in class."" His father's query, ""had I ever given any thought to journalism,"" led him to the Richmond News Leader, which ""opened up a whole new world,"" and a few years later he moved over to the Times-Dispatch. He was also beginning to speak for his state, and the awakening South, on the national scene. Unfortunately, however, Dabney is a plodding, humorless writer (""I thought you were an old man!"" Mencken said on their first meeting--a remark Dabney ""never understood"") and neither as consummate Virginian nor, later, as foreign-touring journalist does he score any new points. He's wary of communists, appreciative of Eisenhower, puzzled by the coexistence of German courtesy and barbarity. And, in the next flat sentence, distressed by the loss of his luggage. Post-retirement, he makes little (but work) of writing a history of Virginia and of Richmond, and elaborates on the activities of the Virginia Historical Society. A penultimate section rakes over the complaints against journalism today. Outside the Old Dominion, too stodgy to offset its inconsequence.