Charles Barbour June 25,2009

Charles William “Charlie” Barbour of Reston, a longtime editor and executive in the sports departments of two defunct Washington newspapers, died at Loudoun (Va.) Hospital Center on June 25 after a short illness. He was 89.

Mr. Barbour was born in the District, the oldest of 10 children. He left school to join the Washington Times-Herald as a copy boy in 1936. He joined the sports staff in 1937, covering the first three exhibition games played by the Washington Redskins. He left the paper in March, 1942, for Army service and returned in October, 1945.

Mr. Barbour was the paper’s sports editor from February 1949 until it was sold to The Washington Post on March 17, 1954. He joined the Washington Evening Star sports staff and was assistant sports editor when he retired in 1977.

“He was one of the best journalists I’ve ever worked with,” said Dick Heller, a former sportswriter for the Star and now a sports columnist for The Washington Times. “You couldn’t get by with any foolishness when Charlie was around, but he was very good at working with and encouraging young writers.”

Mr. Barbour served as Intelligence NCO with the 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized of the Sixth Armored Division in General George S. Patton's Third Army during World War II and participated in four combat campaigns before being wounded in Marvie, Belgium on Jan. 12, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

He lived in the District for 35 years before moving to Springfield, where he remained until a post-retirement move to Orlando, Fla., in 1978. He returned to Virginia in 2005 and lived in Ashburn until his death.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery (from the chapel to Section 47; #867) on Aug.31 at 2:45 pm.

Charles W. Barbour Sports Editor

Charles William Barbour, 89, an assistant sports editor at the Washington Star from 1954 to 1977, died June 25 at Inova Loudoun Hospital Center in Leesburg of pneumonia.

Early in his career, Mr. Barbour, a Washington native, was a sports editor for the old Washington Times-Herald. He started at the paper in the late 1930s as a copy boy and became a sports writer covering high school sports when he returned from Army service in World War II. He received the Purple Heart after he was wounded, losing sight in his left eye, during the Battle of the Bulge.

He was a member of Knights of the Columbus, the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and the old Sixth Armored Division Association, where he served as a past president.

He was a Washington resident until 1955, when he moved to Springfield. He relocated to Orlando in 1977 and returned to Ashburn in 2005.

His wife of 50 years, Frances Bucher Barbour, died in 1999.

Attribution: Washington Post Notice

Tribute to Charles Barbour by Dick Heller

The noted local editor really knew it all. The sports editor of the old Washington Times-Herald had some friendly advice for the young woman working as the paper’s Inquiring Photographer in the early 1950s.

“You’re a smart, attractive person,” he said. “Why are you wasting your time with that junior senator from Massachusetts? He’ll never go anywhere.”

The young woman was Jacqueline Bouvier and the junior senator, of course, was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The sports editor was Charlie Barbour, and he told that story for decades -- always laughing at himself louder than any listener did.
Barbour, who died at 89 after a short illness June 25 at Inova Loudoun Hospital Center, was not well known to most readers because he was an “inside” man at the Times-Herald and then as assistant sports editor at the Washington Star until his retirement in 1977.

Among local journalists, however, he was recognized as one of the most competent people around. He seemed to know all there was to know about putting out a daily newspaper. And often he knew more about local sports, coaches and players than his reporters did.

One of the coaches was Arnold “Red” Auerbach, who grew up in the District about the same time as Barbour and was master of hoops at Theodore Roosevelt High School when Charlie was covering preps.

Carl Sell, a longtime co-worker at the Star, remembers that Barbour liked to wear white shirts to work when they were hard to obtain during World War II.

“So Charlie called Red, who was stationed at the Navy Yard, and Red bought him a bunch of shirts at the PX,” Sell said. “Had them delivered to the Times-Herald, too.”

Barbour was an old-fashioned newspaperman in the finest sense of the phrase at a time when there was no competition from the Internet and little from radio or TV. He demanded that his writers get the news quickly and accurately, and he had no patience with those who couldn’t. Excuses didn’t matter to him, only results.

I was pretty sure I knew it all when I came to the Star in 1964 after working on several smaller papers. My biggest talent, if that’s the word, often lay in one-liners and wisecracks. In any case, Sell set me straight as soon as I ventured into the sports department of the Star building at 225 Virginia Ave. SE.

“Just keep your mouth shut and you’ll learn a lot from Charlie,” said Sell, who helped direct an army of correspondents covering high school sports.

I did, on both counts. Barbour, sports editor Bill Peeler and other veterans helped turn me into a decent newsman instead of a kid playing at the profession.

Only once, if memory serves, did Charlie get mad at me -- and although he had lost an eye in the Battle of the Bulge, he could glare very effectively with the other one. When George Washington University dismissed a fellow named Jim Camp as football coach in 1966, I wrote this devastatingly clever lead: “There’s high camp and low camp, and yesterday at GW there was no Camp (CQ).”

Barbour managed to hide his admiration.

“Get over here, Heller!” he commanded, flinging my copy in my face with remarkable accuracy. “What’s this garbage? Take this [expletive deleted] story and give me a piece the readers can understand.”

Barbour kept his private life extremely private, as far as his associates were concerned. For much of his tenure at the Star, he was a night editor who came to work around 1 a.m. and left around 9 after editing and putting together the inside pages of the afternoon paper’s sports section. Fortunately, he retired four years before the Star folded in 1981. Dealing with that would have been most painful for a man who devoted his career to the pursuit and practice of good journalism.
This has been a terrible year for those of us who loved the Star and newspapers in general. Recently, we lost two other noted local journalists: Mary Lou Forbes, who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Star in 1959 and later ran the Commentary section of The Washington Times, and Dick Slay, a standout golf writer at the Star who ended his career as a member of the copy desk at The Times.

Now Charlie Barbour is gone, too. During his near half-century in the business, he was a genuine superstar at a time when getting it right was as important as getting it fast.

Charlie, R.I.P.

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