Ernest V. Baugh Jr.

April 10, 1993

When a newspaperman lives on into his ninth decade, old clippings yellow, dust settles on microfilm and the great events and people of yesteryear fade into fleeting memory. Such was the fate of Ernie Baugh, for 56 years a reporter and editorial writer for this newspaper. If he had not died this week, he would still be around to tell us he had had a pretty good life.

Those clippings and microfilm, after all, are a touch of immortality bestowed on only a comparatively few mortals. Who knows what researcher in what year will chance across Mr. Baugh's work as he writes the definitive history of Baltimore's one-sixth political bosses or hi-jinks at the General Assembly? This is one of the rewards of this game.

Ernest V. Baugh Jr. was born in Baltimore 13 days before the beginning of this century. He went to City College, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Law School before breaking into journalism on the old Baltimore Post. Before a year was out, in 1924, he moved over to The Sun and hung around this newspaper until he retired in 1980, just past his 80th birthday.

How to describe a treasured colleague? Do you recall his "Hi, Toots" as he passed in the corridor, or his invariable white shirt and black bow tie, or his ritual of standing on his head every birthday? Or do you remember that as a reporter in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Ernie knew every Maryland politician who could register on a thermometer, every fingertip fact on deadline? He was long The Sun's institutional memory, and woe betide the newspaper that doesn't have staffers like him.

Globalism was not Mr. Baugh's ken. He left world summitry and the White House to others while he concentrated on what was happening near to home. Long before modern pollsterism, he selected 100 precincts in Baltimore to provide early and accurate election projections. He chronicled the doings of politicians he liked (Mayor Howard W. Jackson and Gov. Herbert R. O'Conor) and of those he liked but deplored (boss James H. "Jack" Pollack). He had a sharp eye, too, for the political hypocrisy of Marylanders who rejected Sen. Millard Tydings and Gov. William Preston Lane in 1950 and later elevated them to near-sainthood.

Henry Louis Mencken, an Ernie Baugh contemporary, once wrote: "If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl." How about some forgiveness, a wink and a "Hi, Toots"?

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