Theo "Ted" Lippman, Jr. was a man who I managed to pass in the hallways and corridors three or four times a week. He was never without a scrap or two of paper, always in mid-assemblage of a pithy column on politics or current events that ran to about 500-600 carefully chosen words and was lodged at corner left on the opinion page beneath the totem of staff editorials. I wrote it long, goes the old newsroom saw, because I didn't have time to write it short. Lippman's column was always so disciplined and tight, so keenly edited, that I imagined beads of blood forming on his forehead as he trimmed his way into ten or eleven column inches. He was always worth the read. Even more so when compared to many of the droning, this-bears-watching, yet-on-the-other-hand staff editorials perched atop his signed column.
Mr. Lippman was also an expert on the life and work of Mencken, the great essayist and skeptic who bestrode the joint Evening Sun-Morning Sun newsroom like a colossus. The Baltimore paper had not produced anyone as elemental to American culture and, though many had ceased to read Mencken as part of the literary canon, he remained the essential icon for those of us on Calvert Street. For one thing, Mencken could turn a phrase; his memoirs and essays are often brilliant and, at points, genuinely timeless. For another, we were all of us wandering the dim halls of an ancient ink-stained cloister, and such places demand at least one founding saint.
Ted Lippman's editing of Mencken's work, published several years before, marked him in my mind as more than one of the paper's better political columnists. He was an Author, a man of letters capable of assessing and framing the legendary work of the Great Sage. That he had published other political biographies of Ed Muskie, Spiro Agnew and Franklin Roosevelt compounded my awe.
[Photo Credit: Joseph F. Farace, Baltimore Sun]