Journalist Jack Scott dies at 64
Jack Scott, the award-winning journalist who was called Canada's most literate columnist, died Tuesday at his home on Rainbow Road at Ganges on Saltspring Island.
He was 64.
Scott was at one time editorial director of The Vancouver Sun, which published his widely-read daily column Our Town for 12 years, and has published occasional articles of his since.
After a distinguished career as a foreign correspondent, Scott was a columnist with the Victoria Times until his retirement about five years ago. And even after retiring, he wrote occasional articles for both The Sun and the Times.
He suffered the second of two strokes in 1978 and wrote with gentle humor of the adjustment to life in hospital. He later wrote of retirement and the mixed joys of having weekend guests at his island retreat. In one piece he looked back on his years as a special correspondent roving the world and confided that he became disillusioned with the high excitement of travel and acclaim.
The most recent article, published in The Sun in July of last year was a nostalgic account of a camping trip in the Rockies with his father when he was 11 years old.
In praise of Scott, an editor once offered this short travel guide to the West Coast: "Easterners are advised to look at the Douglas Firs and read Jack Scott."
Born in Vancouver, Scott cut his teeth in the newspaper business at the age of 15. His first reporting job was with the now-defunct News-Herald, and he was still a youth when he became the paper's city editor. His Our Town column started in that newspaper. During the Second World War, Scott served four years in the Canadian Army. He enlisted in the Intelligence Corps and was later attached to the public relations section. In this capacity he broadcast from the western front for a year for the BBC and the CBC. He then became an editor of the Maple Leaf, the Canadian Army newspaper in London and in Germany. He was discharged in Vancouver with the rank of captain. He began to write Our Town in The Sun in June, 1946.
In September, 1958, Scott was appointed editorial director of The Sun by then- publisher Donald Cromie. In the newly-created position he unleashed his flair for journalistic feats. He sent his sports editor to interview Chiang Kai-shek and his fashion editor to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro and look at the aftermath of the revolution. But about five months later, Scott was appointed The Sun's London correspondent, relinquishing the post of editorial director to take over his new duties.
Scott's writings won him a wide variety of awards throughout his career. He won the National Newspaper Award of 1954 for a moving series of articles on racial unrest and tribal revolt in Africa. In 1957 a series on Premier Maurice Duplessis' Quebec regime earned him a Bowater Award. The series was considered one of the finest pieces of investigative reporting in Canadian newspaper history.
In 1963 he was honored by the Family Service Association of America for unique contributions to the strengthening of family life and in 1971 received the top MacMillan Bloedel prize for a series on Victoria's search for an identity.
In 1964, at the age of 49, Scott was appointed Latin American correspondent for the Toronto Star, based in Rio de Janeiro. He recalled last year that he spent 10 years of his newspaper life travelling to far horizons, the last six before returning to B.C. as correspondent in South America, Britain, Europe and the Middle East. "I had," he wrote, "more than my share of important global stories the Torrey Canyon oil spill off Land's End, the Aberfan disaster when all those Welsh kids were buried under a slag heap, the Six Day War in Israel, the military overthrow of half a dozen elected South American governments, perhaps the first look at separatism in French Canada, the Cuban revolution and its aftermath, how apartheid works in South Africa and a good many more."
In retirement he played golf and fished, and friends remembered him as a winning poker player. He is survived by his wife, Grace; three married daughters, two granddaughters and a grandson. The daughters are Judy, who lives with her husband and daughter in South Africa; Jill Fowles, who lives with her husband and daughter in Victoria, and Jenny Walsh, who lives with her husband and son on Salt-spring. No announcement on services has been made.
Jack Scott, award-winning journalist and former Times columnist, died Tuesday at his Salt Spring Island home. He was 64.
He had suffered two strokes in the past seven years and had been ill for several months.
Scott came to the Times in January, 1970, after 40 years in the newspaper business and a distinguished career which took him around the world and put him on the scene of many major historical news events.
He wrote a daily column in the Times until about four years ago, the topics and approach varying from a serious look at social and political issues of the day to a gentle, humorous view of everyday problems and situations or an insightful poke at some sacred cow.
Following his retirement, he continued up until a short time ago to write book reviews for the newspaper and occasional articles for the Vancouver Sun.
Scott was born in Vancouver, the son of a newspaperman, and he began his career early starting out as a copy boy for the News Herald in Vancouver when he was 15.
He soon became the city editor and worked alongside a man who was also to become a well-known Cana dian writer, Pierre Berton.
Scott wrote a column called Our Town in the News Herald for three years.
During the Second World War, he served four years in the Canadian Army. He enlisted in the Intelligence Corps and was later attached to the Public Relations section. In this capacity he broadcast from the Western Front for a year for the BBC and the CBC.
He then became editor of the Maple Leaf, the Canadian Army mewspaper in London and in Germany. He was discharged in Vancouver with the rank of captain.
Scott then joined the Vancouver Sun, and in June, 1946, began writing his Our Town column which became widely read.
More than 12 years later, September, 1958, he was appointed the Sun's managing editor by publisher Donald Cromie. The posting only lasted for about five months but as one newspaperman who remembers says "they were wild and crazy times and everyone had a ball." Scott, for example, tossed established practices to the winds and sent his sports editor to interview Chiang Kai-shek and his women's page editor to Cuba to cover the aftermath of the revolution. It all came to an end when Scott was appointed the Sun's London correspondent.
During his career, he won a number of awards including the National Newspaper Award of 1954 for a moving series of articles on racial unrest and tribal revolt in Africa. In 1957 a series on Duplessis' Quebec regime earned him a Bowater award. The series was considered perhaps one of the finest pieces of investigative reporting in Canadian newspaper history. In 1971 he won the top Mac-Millan Bloedel prize for an eight-part series in the Times titled: "Victoria A Search for Identity.'
At one stage, he worked for the Toronto Star and in 1964, at the age of 49, he was appointed the paper's Latin American correspondent, based in Rio de Janeiro.
Among the stories he covered during his career were the Torrey Canyon oil spill off Land's End, the Aberfan disaster when Welsh children were buried under a slag heap, the Six Day War in Israel, the military overthrow of half a dozen elected South American governments, the Cuban revolution, the apartheid situation in South Africa and an early look at separatism in eastern Canada.
Those who knew Scott say he was a shy, reserved man. He enjoyed playing golf and shot in the 80s when he was in his prime. Earlier in his life, he was a keen fisherman, spending time on the water around his Salt Spring home near Vesuvius Bay.
He also had a reputation as an ardent, shrewd poker player.
"I think what really distinguished him as a columnist was his terrific change of pace," says Times Page editor Peter Murray, who came to know Scott better than most people at the paper. "
Jack could be political, angry, philosophical, humorous a different style all the time."
Another distinguishing feature was that Scott never attacked people, says Murray. "He was tough on issues but never personally abusive. Basically a very gentle man. "He liked people. "He didn't like savaging people like many columnists nowadays do. The trend now is to attack personalities' rather than issues."
Jack Webster, former radio hotline host now with B.C. Television, was a good friend of Scott's and a neighbor of his on Salt Spring.
"Canada has lost one of the best newspapermen, columnists and essayists of the century," he said in an interview today.
Webster worked with him for a number of years on the Sun and described Scott as a member of that great coterie of old-time newspapermen. "He was colorful, flamboyant and had a touch of humanity. "There isn't a newspaperman in the country with his kind of concern for people, "He was a left-wing humanist."
Berton, today described Scott as "the most elegant newspaper writer in Canada."
"He had a style that flowed so easily," said Berton, adding that Scott had been a close friend since their days together on the News Herald in the 1940s.
"He sweated over every word but he knew words and loved words. He was one of the most popular columnists that ever hit the west coast."
Cromie, interviewed today at his Vancouver home, described Scott as "a delightful person."
"He was one of the great writers this city has seen," he added.
"Jack was a shy person," Cromie recalls, remembering one incident when Scott was to receive a civil liberties award at the University of B.C. Scott came into the publisher's office concerned about having to give a speech at the presentation. A bottle of whisky was brought out "to shore up Jack so that he could give his little speech."
"Well, Jack drank his way right through lunch and never did get out of there."
Cromie said time didn't mean too much to Scott and sometimes, even on assignment he would vanish and send back the most incredible notes saying he "fell in with thieves in northern Ontario or something."
"I would say that Jack was so much of an individualist that he is difficult to compare with anybody else," Cromie said.
Himie Koshevoy, who was Scott's city editor at the Sun for a time, said he was a "great guy, a great feature writer."
"He had the ability to find stories almost everywhere. "He could write seriously and bring tears to your eyes or make you laugh.
"He had a great way with words." Scott is survived by his wife of 41 years, Grace; three married daughters, Judy, who lives with her husband in South Africa; Jill (Fowles) of Victoria; and Jenny (Walsh), who lives on Salt Spring. There are four grandchildren.
The funeral service was a private, family affair held Tuesday at Scott's home.