Bill McGoun picked up a pen and didn’t let go for six decades.
The veteran journalist and historian was a prolific writer for the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and Citizen Times in Asheville, North Carolina until October when COVID-19 hit, drying the ink from his ballpoint pen and calming his keyboard.
The 84-year-old, a 1955 graduate of Lake Worth High School, died on May 4 after struggling to recover from the virus.
Read more:Recalling the prescient writings of a former Post colleague on the perils of Afghanistan | Frank Cerabino
Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and dry sense of humor, McGoun began his journalism career as a gofer for The Palm Beach Post in 1957 when the bureau was on Datura Street in downtown West Palm Beach.
He would work his way up to editor of Broward news at the Miami Herald, where he also had a “Broward Heritage Column.” In the mid to late 1970s he joined The Palm Beach Post and became a senior columnist. He also wrote a series of articles on the history of Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties through the lives of “notable and, in some cases, notorious” people.
“To me, he was what all dads are, but clearly as you get older you realize that’s not the case, it’s not all about you,” the daughter of McGoun, Desiree Ballard. “He loved to write and he remained passionate about it and his beliefs until the day he died.”
McGoun was born August 31, 1937, in New Castle, Pennsylvania, but moved to South Florida as a child. After high school, he attended Palm Beach Junior College. It was there that Ballard says he discovered his love for writing.
In a 1995 article for The Post, McGoun writes wistfully about the Datura Street office and how he would submit glossy photographs to a commercial engraver to prepare them for the next day’s newspaper, as opposed to computer scans most sterile of the day that produced perfect images. -size prints in seconds.
“In the pre-Weather Channel days, we displayed weather flags on the roof,” McGoun wrote. “One night someone came down the street asking about the hurricane.”
There was no hurricane. A daytime maintenance worker was ordered to fly a small craft warning flag and mistakenly raised the hurricane flag.
“And then there was the rooftop rain gauge that once recorded 2½ inches of rain during a drought,” McGoun wrote. “It’s a long and complicated story. Suffice it to say, the central character was a heavy-drinking copy editor.
McGoun earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Florida Atlantic University in 1981. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1989 with a Ph.D. in anthropology.
He has written several books, including “Lake Worth High School: A History,” “Southeast Florida Pioneers,” “Ancient Miamians,” and “Prehistoric Peoples of South Florida.”
“I think his real calling was as an editorial writer because he felt so passionate about the state and it came through in what he wrote,” said Randy Schultz, former editor of the Post’s editorial page. and freelance writer for Boca Raton Magazine and the South Florida Sun. Sentinel. “He woke up every morning worrying about something, always.”
Jan Tuckwood, former deputy editor of The Post, also remembers McGoun as someone with a “library in his head”.
“Journalists are some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet, and Bill was one of the smartest journalists you’ll ever meet,” she said.
McGoun retired from the Post around 2000, moving with his wife to Bryson City, North Carolina, where they purchased an old farmhouse with a “really large” library, Ballard said. McGoun never stopped writing. He adopted the Bryson City area as his new hometown, writing for The Citizen Times in Asheville, regularly driving the 65 miles to the office for meetings.
McGoun’s wife, Bonnie, died in 2015, but he continued to travel, including to South Florida to see his son Michael McGoun and daughter-in-law Adriana, and to Florida Historical Society conferences. This is where former Palm Beach Post reporter and historian Eliot Kleinberg sometimes met him.
“He was a journalist and a historian all the way,” Kleinberg said. “After all, you never fully withdraw from either.”
McGoun is also survived by her daughter Brandy Knisley, her sister Madalyn McGoun, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Donations in her memory may be sent to Marianna Black Library, 33 Fryemont St., Bryson City, NC 28713.
Kimberly Miller is a veteran reporter for the Palm Beach Post, part of Florida’s USA Today network. She covers real estate and how growth is affecting the South Florida environment. If you have any topical tips, please send them to [email protected]
Help support our local journalism, subscribe today.