Saturday, 05 December 2015 04:30

Anthony H. Harrigan: Oct. 27, 1925 -- May 28, 2010

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Anthony H. Harrigan: Oct. 27, 1925 -- May 28, 2010

William P. Cheshire

William P. Cheshire was a friend of Anthony H. Harrigan. Long-time readers of the St. Croix Review will remember Anthony Harrigan as one of our distinguished writers.

In our professional lives we traveled on parallel tracks, Tony and I -- he barreling across the continent in a bullet-train and I chugging along on the Toonerville Trolley. By the time I had moved out of the newsroom in Richmond and onto the editorial pages of the Charleston Evening Post, Tony long since had left his job as a police reporter in Norfolk and was a nationally known writer, assisting the gentlemanly Tom Waring on the editorial pages of the News & Courier and contributing to various out-of-town publications, conspicuously William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review.

In the pages of that journal I first encountered Tony's remarkable talent. Fresh out of college and subsisting just barely as a reporter on the old Richmond News Leader, I couldn't subscribe to pricey publications, but a newsroom colleague took Buckley's magazine -- in fact, was a frequent contributor -- and passed along his old copies.

Those were the days of Frank Meyer, James Burnham and other celebrities of the newborn "conservative movement," most of them regulars at "The Magazine." Prominent among these trailblazers was Anthony H. Harrigan, whose view of national politics from a Southern perspective was distinctive and refreshing, especially to a beginning writer from below the Potomac. The colleague whose magazines I borrowed possessed remarkable talents as well and later made his mark as a magazine editor and best-selling author in New York. But Tony's work was special. Even the soaring prose of James Jackson Kilpatrick, editor of my Richmond paper and a stylist of enormous ability, did not possess quite the savor of Tony's carefully seasoned pieces.

Like many outstanding writers, Tony's career preparation was out of the ordinary. He was born in New York, but following the death of his father moved with his mother to the family's native Charleston when he was a small boy. Tony skipped the last year of high school, joined the Marine Corps at 17 and over the years attended the University of Virginia and several smaller schools, enrolling in a variety of courses, with particular emphasis on the classics. At Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a free-spirited and now defunct institution where specializing in art was regarded as central to a quality education, he even tried his hand at musical composition. But soon he moved on, recognizing the need for a more rigidly structured environment than was available at progressive Black Mountain, where the only rule, he later recalled, "was that one had to work on the garbage truck once a week."

What some might have regarded as a hodge-podge approach to formal education was, in Tony's case, the means of accumulating an enormous store of information in a variety of disciplines, thereby widening his field of vision far beyond the narrow focus of daily journalism. Tony was not a career journalist, as I was, though he would revert to journalism as a means of instruction when necessary; he was by both ability and disposition an educator and concentrated during most of his active life on furthering, especially among young people, an appreciation for traditional American values, moral and political, which he viewed as essential to national well-being and survival. During the Cold War especially, which is to say during most of our working lifetimes, such discussions necessarily involved complex matters of national defense, trade and economics, areas in which Tony was especially well versed.

For 20 years he was president of the Washington-based U.S. Business and Industrial Council and its Educational Foundation, in which capacity he was a frequent lecturer on college campuses, including those of Yale, Harvard, and the National War College. He also sponsored such lectures by others, including on occasion, I am pleased to say, me.

In addition to a thorough grounding in political philosophy, on which Tony wrote and spoke with wisdom and authority, he possessed an astounding familiarity with modern warfare and weapon systems, an interest that may have reflected his experiences in World War II -- though I hasten to note that he was that rara avis, the humble Marine. During nearly half a century of friendship I never heard him mention his military service, of which he had every reason to take pride. He frequently wrote and lectured on military affairs and twice received the Military Review Award of the U.S. Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1965 he was a guest in Vietnam of the Secretary of Defense and flew with a Marine helicopter squadron at Da Nang and accompanied U.S. Army units along the Laotian border and in the Mekong Delta.

"As author or editor of nearly two dozen books and as a contributor to more than seventy journals on both sides of the Atlantic," wrote Mark C. Henrie several years ago:

Anthony Harrigan has demonstrated an unusual combination of the traditionalist and anti-Communist impulses of the postwar American conservative movement. As a foundation executive, he has also entered into economic debates, warning that unrestricted free trade can weaken American industry and, thereby, American security.

. . . concerns that some would regard as outmoded in today's global economy, but that may not have been altogether laid to rest.

It remains to be mentioned that Tony began his literary career not as a pundit, but as a poet, with the publication of Ten Poets Anthology in 1946 and subsequent contributions to The Yale Poetry Review and other journals. Several years afterward he inaugurated American Letters in Charleston, the city's first literary review since the 1850s.

Soldier, poet, pundit, author, educator -- Tony was all these and more. He was, above all, a kind and gentle man and a stranger to evasion and deceit. His manner was scrupulously straightforward. He did not mince words. But, though he would take vigorous exception to opinions with which he disagreed, I do not think I ever heard him question the motives or disparage the character of an opponent -- at least not one on this side of the Iron Curtain.

The older generation, the one older even than mine and Tony's, commonly would refer to a man of exemplary character as a "true Christian gentleman." My friend Tony Harrigan, God rest his soul, was precisely such a man. *

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