Grateful for Well-Timed Words From Wicker
Tom and I worked together in the Washington bureau of The New York Times for some six years—I was there when he arrived in 1960 from Nashville and he was there when I left in 1966 for the Nieman. And in between we had that historic day in 1963 when Tom was in Dallas covering the Kennedy assassination and I was running the news desk operation in Washington in the absence of our two bosses, Scotty Reston and Fendall Yerxa.
Tom's voice on the phone with me that day was what one would expect—calm, professional, leaving no doubt that the copy to come would be remarkable and so it was. I remember all that, of course, but I also remember a conversation with him of far lesser global significance. It was the day when Tom, then Washington bureau chief, suggested that I apply for a Nieman, an honor he himself had enjoyed a few years before.
And so I applied, joined the class of 1967, and when I returned with visions of reporting from overseas, Tom went to bat for me with New York editors with an opening in London on their hands. Tom's letter to New York (a copy of which I have filed away) endorsed me for the opening, noting that I was "just back from a Nieman fellowship" and eager to shift from editing to writing.
Two months later, thanks to the Nieman, and to Tom and other supporters, including another Nieman, Tony Lewis, then London bureau chief, I was on my way there to begin a 12-year journey on the Times foreign staff. What more could one ask of a talented, wonderful colleague—his support for a Nieman and his support for a job in London. Not bad, Tom.