William Franklin McIlwain Jr.

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WILLIAM FRANKLIN MCILWAIN, JR. William Franklin McIlwain, Jr., 88, author and newspaper editor, died August 8, 2014 in Winston-Salem, N.C.             Born in a farmhouse near Lancaster, S.C. on December 15, 1925, he was the son of William Franklin McIlwain, Sr. and Docia Higgins McIlwain. His 50-year career as a newspaperman began at age 17 as a sportswriter for the Star News in Wilmington, N.C.  After graduating from New Hanover High School in 1944, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and graduated from Wake Forest College in 1949 with a bachelor's degree in English.  By that point he had worked as a general assignment reporter for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Journal, the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer and the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem.             In Winston-Salem in 1950 he met Anne Dalton.  They were married in 1952 and lived in Richmond, Va., where he got his first editing job as a copy editor for the Richmond Times Dispatch.  In 1954 they moved to Long Island, N.Y., where he began work as chief copy editor at Newsday.              During the 1950s and 1960s, Bill and Anne had three children: Dalton, Nancy and Bill Jr., who grew up in Huntington, N.Y.  As a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1958, he began work on The Glass Rooster, a novel about the Jim Crow South in which he grew up.  The novel was published in 1960.             At Newsday he advanced to night city editor, city editor, managing editor and editor in chief.  In 1969 he helped write Naked Came The Stranger, a literary hoax in which 24 Newsday writers wrote a deliberately bad novel under the pseudonym Penelope Ashe.  The novel, which became a bestseller, satirized American culture, especially the raunchy novels of the time.             In 1970, the year Newsday won a Pulitzer Prize for public service, McIlwain left Newsday and became writer-in-residence at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.  In 1972 Random House published his memoir titled A Farewell to Alcohol, which became a bestseller, was condensed by Reader's Digest and translated into various foreign languages.             During the 1970s he reported and wrote several prominent magazine pieces: "Upon The Overturning of Two School Buses in Lamar, S.C." (Esquire, 1971), an account of a racial incident during desegregation. "Speed, Sex and Heroes" (The Atlantic, 1973), documented the rise of stock car racing.  In 1973, Harper's published "Last Walk on Bald Head Island," an account of a trip with his son to a then-undeveloped island on the North Carolina coast.             In 1972 he returned to the newspaper business, taking an editing job in Canada at the Toronto Star.  From there he moved to The Record in Hackensack, N.J., then on to the Boston Herald-American as executive editor in 1977.  In 1979 he became deputy managing editor of the Washington Star.  After the Star folded in 1981, McIlwain worked as editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock.  In 1982, he returned to Newsday to lead the paper's expansion into New York City as editor of New York Newsday.  Finally, in 1984, he became executive editor at the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune.  Leaving that post in 1990, he worked several years as Senior Regional Editor of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group, coaching writers and editors while living in Wrightsville Beach, N.C.  His work included mentoring reporters and editors at the Star News, his first newspaper.             McIlwain served as judge on the Pulitzer Prize Board in 1981-1982.  In 2004 he was inducted into the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.             In addition to enjoying his family, reading, writing and spoken language, he enjoyed mentoring aspiring writers, encouraging them to "press on" despite the difficulty of the challenge.  Fishing pleased him deeply, as did tennis and black coffee. He also enjoyed conversation with friends, baseball, barbecue, flowers, poetry, listening to music, reading the New York Times and relaxing in the sunshine on his porch.  He especially enjoyed hosting informal dinner parties for family and friends at his home on Harbor Island at Wrightsville Beach.             He was preceded in death by his parents and his first wife, Anne.  He is survived by his sister Isabelle Jewell and brother-in-law Kelly Jewell of Wilmington, N.C.; his children, Eleanor Dalton McIlwain and husband Jeff Koch of Seattle, Washington; Nancy M. Stevens of Boulder, Colorado and William F. McIlwain, III and his wife Mary Beth Ferrell of Winston-Salem; five grandchildren Michael R. Stevens of Atlanta, Ga., Michael David Granger, Jr., of Cary, N.C., Jesse William McIlwain of Nashua, N.H., Aliza Kathleen McIlwain of Winston-Salem and Hannah Elizabeth Granger of Greensboro, N.C.; two nephews and a niece, and his second former wife, Dr. Kathleen B. French of Fairfax, Va.             Two memorial services will be held, the first in Winston-Salem at Arbor Acres United Methodist Retirement Community, 1240 Arbor Rd. Winston-Salem, N.C. 27104, on Sunday, August 10 at 2 p.m.  A second memorial service will be held in Wilmington September 27.              Messages or condolences may be posted on his Facebook page ("Bill McIlwain") or at www.salemfh.com.           The family would like to thank the loving staff of Arbor Acres for their excellent care of Mr. McIlwain during his final years.            
Published in the Wilmington Star-News on Aug. 9, 2014
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