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2010 Communicator of Achievement

Nomination of Barbara Malone Crookshanks
for Communicator of Achievement 2010


During a 60-year career in journalism, Barbara Malone Crookshanks has seen drastic changes in the print media — from manual typewriter and hot type to computer and Internet. She has adapted to them all. "What has not changed," she says, "is the paramount importance of excellence and integrity in writing, whether small town newspaper or national magazine."

Born and raised in South Charleston, West Virginia, Barbara got her first taste of journalism at Stonewall Jackson High School, which published a highly professional newspaper, The Jackson Journal. From that time on she knew what she wanted to do.

After two years at Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, she transferred to the School of Journalism at West Virginia University. Accuracy and writing skills were the watchwords of Journalism School director Dr. P.I. Reed. The students also published a professional-quality newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum.

Barbara, a member of Kappa Tau Alpha journalism honorary and of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, graduated with honors from West Virginia University in 1950 with a BS Degree in Journalism.

As she recalls, her first job as editor of the West Virginia Farm News in Morgantown was something for which she was totally unqualified but the farmers always came to her aid when she had background questions on stories.

Barbara met Bob Crookshanks in January 1951. They were engaged by Valentine's Day. Until their marriage, she went back home to be with her parents and take a job in the society department of The Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette.

Even then, the Gazette was leaning to liberalism, but the society department was a bastion of tradition. Brides were positioned according to their social status. Pictures of brides and grooms together were forbidden.

In December 30, 1951 — the day after their wedding — Barbara and Bob arrived in Philadelphia, where he would be in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. A couple of months later, Barbara noted a small classified ad from Curtis Publishing Company. Soon she was assistant to the makeup editor of The Ladies' Home Journal.

She would assist her boss, "a lovely little lady," in handling all copy destined for publication in the Journal.

"We received it from the copy editor, who also provided us with paperback mysteries to read at our leisure."

"Closing the Book" day came once a month when the future issue of the Journal was put to bed, with representatives of Curtis advertising and scheduling on hand.

Barbara also became a "first reader" of manuscripts submitted by major agents. This was a daunting task for one so young, since the first reader made a summary and wrote the first comment. The other readers were experienced editors. "I will never forget the time I was enthusiastic about a story and all the others wrote that it was without merit. When the editor-in-chief wrote that he liked it and would buy it, I was in heaven."

Bob and Barbara moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1956 after he completed graduate work at Penn and became a chemical engineer at American Viscose, also known as FMC. Barbara became a reporter at The Free Lance-Star.

The entire news staff, including editor Charles Rowe, was in one large room in the old Star building on William Street. A constant influx of visitors came in bringing news or just passing the time of day.

Versatility was a necessary quality. Barbara's day began with obituaries, meeting notices and press releases. Afternoons were for weddings and interviews. She had the delightful assignment of visiting with "Miss Annie" Smith, savior of Kenmore, thus getting a comprehensive course in Fredericksburg history.

In early 1961, before her daughters, Lee and Virginia, were born, Barbara left the Free Lance-Star to become a full-time mother. She also took on some civic activities, becoming president of the Fredericksburg Chapter of the Mary Washington College Alumnae Association and senior president of the Surgeon Laurence Brooke Society, Children of the American Revolution.

Journalism called again in 1974 with the founding of The Fredericksburg Times Magazine by Maryland publisher Hugh Bailey. It was devoted to the history and personality of the Fredericksburg area and was filled with contributions by local historians and other writers. Barbara would be its editor for 25 years and would edit the three volumes of The Fredericksburg Times Cook Book.

Today, Barbara specializes in history articles, writing for Town and County magazine of the Free Lance-Star and for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library's Web site. She and daughter Virginia C. Johnson are the co-authors of Virginia Horse Racing — Triumphs of the Turf  (The History Press, 2008).

History is never far from Barbara's mind. She is president of the Ladies' Memorial Association of Fredericksburg, which owns and cares for the Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery. She also is a member of the Fredericksburg Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, the Bicentennial Commission, and on the board of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Religious Freedom.

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