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The reporter, thinking to aid Cobb in the preparation of his morning editorial by earlier information than that arriving late at night in the deliberately written despatches to the morning edition, jotted down his observation of the manner in which the assembled Congress received each paragraph of the message and sent it to Cobb by telegraph.
In that evening's last issue, the reporter was astonished to find those notes in print, leading the strike situation news of the day. All rules, all mechanical difficulties, the consideration that he was least of all charged with the supervision of the evening edition's news service, had been swept away before the rush of his conviction that Woodrow Wilson's counsel and its impression upon Congress were the vital news of the moment and should be published instantly.
Something has been said of his fearlessness of authority derived from title or other worldly man-made associations. His intellectual and affectionate absorption in Woodrow Wilson is known, but he had the reputation of speaking his mind to Mr. Wilson as no one else dared who was not 'discarded from Mr. Wilson's counsel.
With Theodore Roosevelt, as might be assumed, he was ever in joyous antagonism. Cobb probably thought better of Roosevelt than Roosevelt thought of Cobb. It was not in President Roosevelt to dismiss a suspicion that there must be a trace of criminality in one who so frankly and continually fought him-he never quite forgave The World editorials on the failure of the Panama Canal libel prosecutions.
Yet Cobb attributed to Mr. Roosevelt no small share in his selection as Joseph Pulitzer's editorial chief of staff. When Theodore Roosevelt passed through Detroit, campaigning as Republican candidate for Vice President, there was drawn to his attention on the ferry taking him from Windsor to Detroit a highly displeasing
editorial in the Free Press on a historical analogy cited by himself in the course of a recent speech. Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, summoned the reporter of the Free Press and gave him a verbal vicarious castigation. He challenged Cobb's accuracy of statement and his sanity of reasoning. He demanded that Cobb be brought before him or that he at least make public acknowledgment of error.
The reply, published in the next day's Free Press, quoted dates and texts and authoritative opinions and was almost jeeringly defiant in triumph. There was no Roosevelt counter-demand or rebuttal; Roosevelt sought out the young editor as a friend. And with the highest ideals of Americanism and humanity in common they battled over the expression of them until Roosevelt's death. Mr. Williams, asking questions about Cobb in Detroit, heard the story of this clash. It gave color to the report which resulted in Mr. Pulitzer's choice of an editor.
But though he feared nothing else on earth, Frank Cobb feared a bore as he hated a sneak. He knew how to rid himself of the company of a sneak, but before a bore he fled with an abject dismay like that of the Kansas farmers of his father's generation who retreated from the grasshoppers to the woods of Michigan.
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE
In Frank I. Cobb I have lost a tender and devoted friend, Journalism has lost an editor of sheer genius and the Nation an American who will leave an emptiness where he stood.
He gave The World his love and his life. He gave it his work in a spirit of worship. In the days of his health he spent his magnificent strength without stint in its service. In later days of tired suffering, as long as his ebbing strength could still carry him to his desk, it was in his work alone that he found forgetfulness of his pain.
He had a giant body and a giant brain, and the simple 'directness of a little child. He spent his life fighting wrong and he fought it simply and fiercely, but all the wounds he left healed clean. Everything he handled became simple in his handling of it. Sometimes he would simplify a bewildering situation or a tangled thought with one easy touch of intuitive analysis. Sometimes he would labor with his might on some cunningly elusive subtlety, and in the end his directness would simplify it into surrender.
He thought simply and hated sophistry. He wrote simply and hated florid phrases. He lived simply and hated fuss and feathers. He succeeded simply and became a power and a personality in the United States, writing editorials he did not sign in a paper he did not own.
The simplicity of his mind, the modesty of his heart, the integrity of his spirit lived with him. But they will not die with him. They are already preserved as a bright tradition among those of us who had the honor of working with him and for those who will come after us. RALPH PULITZER.