William Whitworth, who wrote revealing profiles in The New Yorker giving voice to his idiomatic topics and polished the prose of a number of the nation’s celebrated writers as its affiliate editor earlier than transplanting that journal’s painstaking requirements to The Atlantic, the place he was editor in chief for 20 years, died on Friday in Conway, Ark., close to Little Rock. He was 87.

His daughter, Katherine Whitworth Stewart, introduced the loss of life. She mentioned he was being handled after a number of falls and operations in a hospital.

As a younger faculty graduate, Mr. Whitworth forsook a promising profession as a jazz trumpeter to do a distinct form of improvisation as a journalist.

He lined breaking information for The Arkansas Gazette and later for The New York Herald Tribune, the place his colleagues ultimately included a number of the most exhilarating voices in American journalism, amongst them Dick Schaap, Jimmy Breslin and Tom Wolfe.

In 1966, William Shawn, The New Yorker’s decorous however dictatorial editor, wooed Mr. Whitworth to the honored weekly. He took the job though he had already accepted one at The New York Occasions.

At The New Yorker, he injected wit into pensive “Discuss of the City” vignettes. He additionally profiled the well-known and the not so well-known, together with the jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus (accompanied by images from his former Herald Tribune colleague Jill Krementz) and the international coverage adviser Eugene V. Rostow. He expanded his profile of Mr. Rostow right into a 1970 guide, “Naïve Questions About Struggle and Peace.”

Mr. Whitworth provided each particular person he profiled ample alternative to be quoted, offering every with equally ample petards on which to hoist himself.

In 1966, with attribute detachment, he wrote about Bishop Homer A. Tomlinson, an amiable Queens man who had run a small promoting company and now, presiding over a Church of God flock, had proclaimed himself King of the World. Bishop Tomlinson claimed hundreds of thousands of congregants — together with all Pentecostals. “He thinks they’re his,” Mr. Whitworth wrote, “whether or not they comprehend it or not.”

Of Joe Franklin, the sturdy tv and radio host, Mr. Whitworth wrote in 1971 that his workplace, “if it had been an individual, it will be a bum” — however that “on the air, Joe is extra cheerful and constructive than Norman Vincent Peale and Lawrence Welk mixed.”

From 1973 via 1980 at The New Yorker, after which on the venerable Atlantic Month-to-month, the place he was editor till retiring in 1999, and later when he labored on books, Mr. Whitworth was most valued as a nonfiction editor.

Aside from the writers he shepherded, prodded and guarded, his position was largely unheralded exterior the publishing business. To colleagues who typically puzzled why he deserted reporting, he instructed that he couldn’t lick ‘em, so he joined then: He had merely turn out to be fed up with editors, newspaper editors specifically, mangling his prose which might nonetheless be printed underneath his byline.

“You wish to fail by yourself phrases, not in any individual else’s voice that sounds such as you,” he mentioned on the Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers in 2011.

Mr. Whitworth edited implacable perfectionists just like the movie critic Pauline Kael (who almost got here to blows with Mr. Shawn) and Robert A. Caro (who was ultimately so happy with the ultimate excerpts from “The Energy Dealer,” his biography of Robert Moses, printed in The New Yorker — after Mr. Whitworth interceded with Mr. Shawn — that when The Atlantic printed a condensation of the primary quantity of his Lyndon B. Johnson biography, he requested Mr. Whitworth to edit it).

How did he win over recalcitrant writers?

“So long as you had been maintaining them within the recreation and never doing issues behind their again, slowly explaining why this is able to be a assist to them, which it will, it was defending them not us, they usually got here round,” he mentioned on the Oxford American Summit.

For Mr. Whitworth, mentioned the essayist Anne Fadiman, who labored with him at The American Scholar after he left The Atlantic, “modifying was a dialog and in addition a type of educating.”

Typically Mr. Whitworth provided smart counsel that went past modifying.

After Garrison Keillor wrote an article for The New Yorker concerning the Grand Ole Opry, “he pushed me to do a Saturday night time selection present myself, patterned on the Opry, which led to ‘A Prairie House Companion,’ which offered me with employment for years to come back,” Mr. Keillor mentioned by e-mail. “Uncommon. Like a sportswriter changing into a significant league pitcher, or an obit author opening a mortuary. I’ve been grateful ever since.”

The New Yorker author Hendrik Hertzberg wrote on his blog in 2011 that however Mr. Whitworth’s capability for self-deprecation, he and Mr. Shawn had loads in widespread, “together with a mild method, an acute understanding of writerly neuroses and a deep love of jazz.”

In 1980, Mr. Whitworth was thought-about the probably candidate to succeed Mr. Shawn, who was stubbornly unwilling to be succeeded. Moderately than be complicit in what he described to a buddy as “parricide” in a plot to oust Mr. Shawn, he accepted the editorship of The Atlantic from its new proprietor, Mortimer Zuckerman. He had no regrets.

“I did recover from The New Yorker, way back.” he wrote in a letter to Corby Kummer, a former senior editor and meals columnist at The Atlantic — which, he mentioned, “fulfilled all my expectations and hopes.”

“I couldn’t have been as completely satisfied and proud in every other job,” he added.

Underneath Mr. Whitworth’s editorship, The Atlantic gained 9 Nationwide Journal Awards, together with the 1993 quotation for common excellence.

He additionally labored for months modifying the copy for Renée C. Fox’s “Within the Area: A Sociologist’s Journey” (2011) in a snail-mail alternate that went on for months with out them ever assembly head to head.

Mr. Whitworth’s ideas, Professor Fox recalled in Commentary in 2011, “had been normally written in his characteristically pithy type, at all times courteous, gentlemanly and modest in tone, typically self-deprecating, and sometimes dryly witty.”

“The editor,” she continued, “taught the creator about mental, grammatical, aesthetic, historic and ethical parts of writing and modifying that had been imperceptible, or unknown, to her earlier than.”

William Alvin Whitworth was born on Feb. 13, 1937, in Scorching Springs, Ark. His mom, Lois (McNabb) Whitworth, was a china and silver purchaser at Cave’s Jewelers (the place she typically assisted Invoice Clinton in shopping for items for Hillary). His father, William C. Whitworth, was an promoting govt.

He attended Central Excessive Faculty whereas working half time as a replica boy within the promoting division of The Arkansas Democrat. After commencement, he majored in English and minored in philosophy on the College of Oklahoma, however he dropped out earlier than his senior yr to play trumpet with a six-piece jazz band.

He married Carolyn Hubbard; she died in 2005. Along with their daughter, he’s survived by a half brother, F. Brooks Whitworth. A son, Matthew, died in 2022. Mr. Whitworth had lived in Conway since retiring from The Atlantic.

The literary agent Lynn Nesbit remembered Mr. Whitworth as a “stunningly good and discerning editor” whose “personal ego by no means received in the best way of his editorial brilliance.” Charles McGrath, one other former New Yorker editor who later edited The New York Occasions Guide Evaluation, mentioned that Mr. Whitworth, not like Mr. Shawn, “was extra beloved than feared.”

However he was no pushover. Whereas he typically quoted Mr. Shawn as saying that “falling in need of perfection is simply an limitless course of,” he roughly replicated what he known as The New Yorker’s “neurotic system” of meticulous modifying at The Atlantic.

“He taught me that the worst strategy for an editor is to place your paws throughout a chunk since you knew manage and write it higher,” mentioned Mr. Kummer, who’s now govt director of Meals & Society on the Aspen Institute.

”The author’s identify went on the piece, not yours,” he continued, “and irrespective of how fierce the arguments over phrasing, punctuation, paragraph order or phrase selection, the author needed to be proud of a chunk or it shouldn’t run.”

When he assigned Mr. Kummer to edit an article by George F. Kennan, the distinguished diplomat and historian, Mr. Whitworth cautioned Mr. Kummer in no unsure phrases: “Nonetheless a lot work you assume it wants, keep in mind: He is a big.”

However when Mr. Kennan later complained that Mr. Kummer “put me via as a lot bother as The New Yorker,” Mr. Whitworth replied, “That’s simply what I pay him to do.”



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