Hervey Brackbill was telegrapher, reporter, copy editor, birdwatcher, music critic, bird essayist, slot man, bird bander, features editor, birder. He died March 6. Two more years, and he would also have been a centenarian.
Sighting that name as an Evening Sun editorial page byline, many Baltimoreans took it for a nom de birdplume. But no: Swiss forebears spelt it Brechbuehl.
Brack was a printer's son. Leaving Lancaster, Pa., after high school, Brack worked for Western Union -- telegrams were yesterday's e-mail, sort of -- and then, in Baltimore, for the Associated Press.
In 1928, he sat down at the copy desk of The Evening Sun; in 1947, he stood up, strode over to The Sunday Sun and became second-in-command for the rotogravure Magazine and other feature sections. His retirement, in 1967, left an empty place.
Newspapers are full of bright people; Brack, editing with fountain pen, not pencil and eraser, was brighter. Long before today's funny-headline vogue, he wrote some beauts. He used to speak (aloud) to the typed story in front of him, taxing its writer with crimes against H. W. Fowler's language.
The Evening Sun had its own Washington correspondents then, Frank R. Kent Jr. and Nathaniel T. Kenney. Both Kent and Kenney were born to privilege, and Brack dubbed them the Gold Dust twins. Alas that Nat Kenney, 90, in Florida, also should be among March's deceased.
Brack's life beyond the newspaper -- one headline: "Evening Grosbeaks in Woodlawn!" -- is another story. This must be said: from 1956 to 1967 he was, along with all else, in charge of the Sunday book page; a smaller-budget enterprise than today's (for some reviews, $5), yet important. I answered to him, on copy desk, on book page. Sometimes, facing the computer screen, I still do.
Pub Date: 03/21/99