Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

KIRBY

The cell phone rang as I sat at P. J. Clarke’s bar talking to four Catholic priests who work by day as hospital chaplains. They know about death even on this particular Easter Sunday night. Richard Littlejohn, our veteran overnight and weekend manager, only calls with bad news. “I’m sorry to ruin your Easter, Mr. O’.”

“Who is it, Rich?”

“Bill Scollon; they found him on the floor in his apartment.”

That’s how I learned William Kirby Scollon died alone a few days before Easter. He was a slight, elfin little guy with dancing eyes and a stunning intellect who came to our station on Tuesdays to preside over his own radio program.

The New Rochelle Police officers who found him at 6 P.M. on Easter informed us he had been gone “for a few days.” According to Frank Ippolito, his radio sidekick, Scollon was preoccupied as recently as Friday afternoon with preparing remarks on immigrants and Iraqi war veterans for this week’s show. It was vintage Scollon to the end.

A bit stooped and hunched over from a full life, he spoke in a croak. But Scollon was one of the brightest guys I ever met, an opinion shared by Jack Kennedy, who would call him to discuss the great issues of the day at the Carlyle Hotel—before and after he became president of the United States. Bobby Kennedy also sought Scollon’s advice, and Scollon proudly wore the legendary PT-109 tie clip, a staple for Kennedy staffers and admirers.

Scollon became the gray eminence of the Democratic Party in these parts and cranked out thousands of speeches and position papers for local, regional, and national candidates on a wide range of issues. He hung around Miriam Jackson, the Democrats’ mother hen who became chair of the Westchester County Democratic Committee, and John DeRario, the Little League czar and a powerful voice on the County Board of Legislators during the seventies.

He was married for a brief time, but for the last several decades reverted to life as a confirmed bachelor. He spent his time over the years at a lonely flat in downtown New Rochelle and would celebrate Easter and Christmas with Bill Mullen, a Verizon executive,

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