Bynum G. Shaw, 78, writer, newsman and professor

September 02, 2001|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,SUN STAFF

Bynum Gillette Shaw, professor emeritus at Wake Forest University and a prolific writer who began his career as a reporter at The Sun, died Monday of cancer at his home in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The author of eight books, he was 78.

"He was a staunch friend and a good man - a quiet sort of guy who did a lot of good things for The Sun," said Jesse Glasgow, former business editor of the newspaper. "He did everything you could do in the business, except take pictures."

After a stint at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., the North Carolina native arrived at The Sun in 1951 and quickly rose from the copy desk to the aviation beat, then to the rewrite desk, before going overseas as a foreign correspondent posted in Bonn, Germany.

Posing as a tourist, Mr. Shaw slipped through Soviet checkpoints into Eastern Europe to file some of the earliest accounts of life behind the Iron Curtain.

While overseas, he wrote his first book, The Sound of Small Hammers, published in 1962, while also contributing regularly to Esquire magazine. Three years later, he was attached to the Sun's Washington Bureau, covering the civil rights movement.

"The last big thing he did for the paper was the march on Selma, Alabama," recalled Mr. Glasgow. "He was probably the only reporter who was there the entire time. When the rest of the correspondents would go into town at the end of the day for a warm bath and a good meal, Bynum would sleep outside on the ground with the marchers."

Known for his graceful and sometimes gently satirical writing style, Mr. Shaw filed the following dispatch on March 23, 1965:

"The Rev. Martin Luther King's footsore band of civil rights marchers is moving along the trail to Montgomery today, disrupting traffic along a major national thoroughfare, infuriating the die-hard segregationists of the whole South and taxing the quickly laid security plans of a small land and air army of Federal and Federalized forces.

"An irresistible force of progress has collided on Highway 80 with an immovable object of Southern tradition, and the object is backing sorrowfully away."

Later that year, Mr. Shaw left The Sun to return to his home state alma mater, Wake Forest University, to take up teaching. But he maintained his relationship with the newspaper for years, regularly contributing articles, letters and editorials until the late 1970s.

"He loved the paper," said his daughter, Bonnie Shaw Fowler of Winston-Salem, N.C. "He never failed to go back to Baltimore for the Sun reunions, and he kept in touch with his old friends there for the rest of his life."

In 1972, the newspaper printed excerpts from an expose Mr. Shaw wrote for Esquire about the high cost of dental care in the United States that triggered a minor national scandal in the profession and a flood of mail.

In 1980, he returned with a novel, Days of Power, Nights of Fear, set in Maryland, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Mr. Shaw wrote three other novels, The Nazi Hunter in 1968, Oh, Promised Land! in 1992 and The Junkman Cometh in 1995, but he was best known in academic circles for his sweeping works of history. Shortly after his return to Wake Forest, he co-authored W.W. Holden: a Political Biography with his mentor, Professor E.E. Folk, about the scorned reformist governor of North Carolina whose battles with the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction cost him his political career.

In 1974, he wrote Divided We Stand: The Baptists in American Life, and in 1988 he published the fourth volume of the History of Wake Forest College (1943-1967).

Born in Burlington, N.C., and raised in Wilmington, Mr. Shaw entered Wake Forest on a debating scholarship in 1940, but left to enlist in the merchant marine as a mess cook in 1943. After World War II, he returned to graduate and took his first newspaper job in Norfolk in 1948.

The same year, he married Louise Brantley Shaw, who died in 1980. His second wife, the former Emily Crandall Rushworth, died in 1985. He married Charlotte Easley Reeder of Clarksville in Howard County in 1986.

A memorial service was held Thursday at Wait Chapel, Wake Forest University.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Shaw is survived by another daughter, Susan Shaw Huffstetler of Yorktown, Va.; two sisters, Hazel Dowdy of Colfax, N.C., and Rose Ann Hurtado of Orange, Calif.; two brothers, the Rev. Settle Shaw of Harrison, Tenn., and Thomas C. Shaw of Bay St. Louis, Miss.; four grandchildren; and six step-grandchildren.

The family suggests memorial contributions may be made to Wake Forest University, Bynum Shaw Prize in Journalism, Dept. of English, P.O. Box 7387, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27109.

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