Thursday, September 25

LENOX — Former Berkshire Eagle associate editor Roger B. Linscott, who won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for the newspaper in 1972, died Monday afternoon at his home at Kimball Farms. He was 88. An irreverent, witty man, Linscott worked at The Eagle for 38 years before retiring in 1986. He continued to work part-time at The Eagle for years afterward, while also working full-time at Laurin Publishing in Pittsfield, where he served as editorial director before retiring in 2003.

Linscott received the Pulitzer Prize after submitting 10 editorials that The Eagle said contained "the objective of illustrating the wide range of subjects an editorial writer on a small paper must deal with, ranging from purely local to national and international situations."

Asked to single out one submission as an example of his best work, Linscott chose an editorial published on Oct. 18, 1972, in which The Eagle endorsed George McGovern for president.

Mark Miller, a former executive editor of The Eagle, called Linscott "one of the key figures that made The Eagle what it was in the second half of the 20th century."

Miller, whose family owned the paper until the mid-1990s, said Linscott and his father, Lawrence Miller, made the editorial page "the heart of the paper."

Don MacGillis, a former Eagle editor and now an editorial page writer for The Boston Globe, said Linscott's editorials kept public officials honest.

"Linscott used the Eagle editorial page to keep Berkshire County from being overrun by development, to keep state government on the straight and narrow, and to fight the worst excesses of the Nixon and Reagan administrations," MacGillis said.

"He delighted in speaking to power with conviction and plain-spoken eloquence," added MacGillis, who still lives in Pittsfield. "When a misguided official was the target of an Eagle editorial, Linscott did not mince words. He put his crustiness to good use. The county is better for it."

Said former Eagle City Editor Bill Bell, "He was a brilliant writer and an advocate of high journalistic standards whose influence was felt throughout The Eagle's news department."

'It keeps me young'

Former Eagle reporter Charles T. Troy, currently the senior editor at Laurin Publishing, said Linscott was responsible for a lot of the quality magazine work the company produced, and also liked working with young people.

"A lot of times I asked him, 'Why don't you retire and go home?' " Troy said. "But he said, 'I love working with young folks. It keeps me young.' "

Linscott is one of two Berkshire County residents to have won the Pulitzer Prize. The other is James MacGregor Burns of Williamstown, the Woodrow Wilson Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Williams College, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for his book, "Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom 1940-45."

Linscott was also a noted fly fisherman, hiker, and billiards player, who once drove a souped-up Plymouth Duster, loved animals, and was known for his bouts of absentmindedness. According to Eagle files, as a member of a college jazz band, Linscott once went dashing off to a New York City recording date, but left his rented bass fiddle in a taxi cab.

"He was extremely erudite and particular about history," said Hartford Courant reporter Rinker Buck, who befriended Linscott after working at The Eagle in the early 1970s, "but the details of life often eluded him."

Attorney Wendy T. Linscott, of Great Barrington, one of Linscott's four daughters, said her father never owned a short-sleeved shirt, declined to wear shorts, and didn't purchase a pair of blue jeans — "dungarees, as he would call them" — until he was in his 50s.

"He was a renaissance man," Wendy Linscott said.

Born in Winchester, Linscott was the son of Robert N. Linscott, an editor at Random House, who was one of the most respected editors in American publishing in the first half of the 20th century, according to Bell. Wendy Linscott said her grandfather, who died in 1964, worked with William Faulkner, and discovered well-known American author Carson McCullers, who wrote novels, short stories and plays. Robert Linscott also edited the "Selected Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson."

"His descendants still get royalties from that," Wendy Linscott said.

Linscott graduated from Harvard University in 1941, after spending summer vacations working for the Cape Cod Standard-Times. He was employed briefly by the Buchanan Advertising Agency in New York before enlisting in the Navy where he served on a destroyer during World War II as a lieutenant second grade.

Following his discharge from the service, Linscott worked as a copywriter for the Franklin Spier advertising agency before joining the New York Herald Tribune in November 1946. Linscott spent two years at the Herald Tribune writing the "On the Books" column for the newspaper's Weekly Book Review section, before coming to what was then known as The Berkshire Evening Eagle in 1948.

Seeking a small-town paper

According to his daughter, Linscott came to Pittsfield because he wanted to move his family out of New York City. She said her father discovered The Eagle by going to a New York City newspaper stand and looking through the small-town papers until he found one that interested him.

When he arrived at The Eagle, Linscott was first assigned to cover City Hall, which he did for six years while writing a weekly column on politics. He became an editorial writer in 1954, and was named chief editorial writer in 1957. Linscott was later named editor of the editorial page, before being promoted to associate editor in 1972.

Linscott leaves four daughters, Wendy T. Linscott, of Egremont; Judith K.R. Zask, of Lakeville, Conn.; Victoria Harper Linscott, of Falls Village, Conn.; and Rebecca S. Spieler, of Sandisfield; four grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. He also leaves his family friend and caregiver, Betty Sacco of Pittsfield.

He was predeceased by his wife, the former Lucy Ann Richardson Goodlatte, who died in March 1996; his brother, Seymour; and his sisters, Barbara Meyers and Sylvia Reynolds.

Burial will be private and a memorial service will be held later this year. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council or the Berkshire Humane Society. Funeral arrangements are under the care of Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home in Great Barrington.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.