Blackford remembered for eventful
Championed civil rights, worked for the
CIA, Time Magazine, the Virginian-Pilot, former Va. Gov. Holton
and, lastly, his alma mater
by Matt Kelly
D. Blackford, a former Rhodes Scholar, civil rights advocate
and reporter, at his desk at One West Range where he served
as editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review for 28 years.
By Matt Kelly
D. Blackford, retiring editor of the Virginia
Quarterly Review, died Monday of injuries sustained in an
automobile collision at the intersection of Emmet Street and Arlington
Boulevard in Charlottesville.
Charlottesville native, Blackford, 72, enjoyed a varied career
working for, among others, Time Magazine, the Central Intelligence
Agency, former Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton Jr. and, for the
past 28 years, as editor of VQR.
had a long connection to the University, where his father taught
in the School of Medicine. A member of the Class of 1952, graduating
with a degree in history, he was an editor at the Cavalier Daily
and a Rhodes Scholar. He spent four years working for the CIA
in the 1950s, then edited an internal publication for Time Inc.
From there, he edited a history encyclopedia and worked as an
editor at the Louisiana State University Press.
passionate believer in the Civil Rights Movement, Blackford was
director of research at the Southern Regional Council, a civil
rights organization in Atlanta, from 1962 to 1964, a period he
described as the movements glory days. He began
working as a political reporter for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk
in 1964. While working there, he met Holton, who went on to become
Virginias first Republican governor in living memory.
Holtons press secretary and speechwriter, Blackford crafted
the governors 1970 inaugural address, a historic appeal
for racial reconciliation after the states turbulent massive
was the first of the new Southern governors, Blackford said
in an interview last year, remembering an inspiration he got while
shaving at his in-laws on the Christmas morning before the inauguration.
He wanted to make Virginia a model for race relations. It
occurred to me he would be speaking from the steps of the capital
of the Confederacy, so why not invoke Lincoln, With malice
towards none and charity toward all
were the four happiest years of my professional life.
George Garrett was a long-time friend of Blackfords.
was a passionate Democrat who worked for a Republican governor,
because he was more liberal than any of the Democrats, Garrett
Holton left office, Blackford came back to U.Va., working as a
special assistant to presidents Edgar F. Shannon Jr. and Frank
L. Hereford Jr. In 1975, he succeeded Charlotte Kohler as editor
of the VQR.
editor, Blackford was among the first to publish a story by Pulitzer
Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler. Another time, a friend suggested
he look over the work of a North Carolina writer who had dropped
out of Penn State and was working as a house painter. Blackford
liked it and was the first to publish the work of novelist T.R.
Pearson. He also published a lost story of William
Faulkner, who had been writer in residence at the University from
1957 to 1962.
was a good and dear friend over many years, said Garrett,
who helped Blackford sift through stories contributed to the VQR.
He was an admirable editor and he maintained the VQR as
a major American magazine. We will miss him terribly.
was particularly proud of VQRs 75th anniversary issue, published
in spring 2000, as well as two anniversary anthologies of Quarterly
material, Eric Claptons Lover and Other Stories,
a collection of short fiction, and We Write for Our Own
Time, a collection of essays.
had three projects lined up for himself in retirement. A glaucoma
sufferer, he wanted to write a book titled For Your Eyes
Only on eye maladies written for the layman. He also planned
to write a book about Virginius Dabney, whom he described as an
Old Dominion tragedy, a talented man who failed at a critical
time, Blackford said. Dabney, editor of the Times-Dispatch in
Richmond for 35 years and the quintessence of liberal Southerners,
remained silent during the massive resistance to school integration,
while Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, railed
also planned to write his own memoirs, entitled Downhill
All the Way, based in part on a diary he had been keeping
since 1973, when he was working for Holton.
Garrett recounted Blackfords weekly lunches at the former
University Cafeteria, where participants picked up inexpensive
lunches and talked politics.
office was located at One West Range, a prestigious address on
Grounds, and Garrett said that while many coveted it, Blackford
kept it out of their hands by refusing to have plumbing installed.
Garrett said whenever someone started eyeing the space, they were
discouraged by having to walk across McCormick Road to Alderman
Library to use the bathroom.
Blackford was a friend to everyone with an interest in public
affairs, said Kenneth W. Thompson, director emeritus at
U.Va.s Miller Center of Public Affairs. He carried
the VQR to the highest levels among literary magazines, but he
was never too busy to talk to old friends or new writers with
is survived by his wife, Bettina, who suffered minor injuries
in the accident, and two daughters, Linda Blackford of Lexington,
Ky., and Sheila Bloor of Seattle. As of Tuesday, funeral arrangements