Columnists: Master of the Epithet

At the peak of his parabolic career, Westbrook Pegler was among the best-known figures in U.S. journalism. Carried by 186 newspapers, his column reached 12 million readers, who reacted with anger or admiration or a blend of both. When he died last week in Tucson at the age of 74, Pegler had long been in eclipse. Only a handful of newspapers bothered to remark editorially on his passing—the ultimate slight to a journalist whose caustic style enlivened his times.

Iconoclastic, irascible, Pegler abused his abundant talents. His mastery of the incisive phrase...

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