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  • Robert L. Scott:Memories of a Great Man
  • Martin J. Medhurst (bio)

When Robert L. Scott passed away on July 26, 2018, the fıeld of rhetorical studies lost one of its few remaining intellectual giants. I recall that as a young graduate student, I would make a list in my head of those intellectual stalwarts who appeared to me to be head and shoulders above the pack—scholars I could look up to and try to emulate. Chief among those was my own teacher, Carroll Arnold, and two scholars who retired shortly after I entered the fıeld, Donald C. Bryant and Marie Hochmuth Nichols. I met each of them only once but admired them from afar. Among those whose careers overlapped substantially with my own, no one was more admired than Bob Scott.

I fırst encountered the name Robert L. Scott in my M.A. course in "Methods of Rhetorical Criticism" at Northern Illinois University. We used three textbooks, one of which was Methods of Rhetorical Criticism: A Twentieth-Century Perspective (1972) by Robert L. Scott and Bernard L. Brock. The book was a collection of classic essays by Wichelns, Hochmuth Nichols, Wrage, Rosenfıeld, Brockriede, Stelzner, Griffın, and Osborn as well as work by Kenneth Burke and Richard M. Weaver. It also included a coauthored essay by Brockriede and Scott, "Reducing Rhetorical Distance: Khrushchev's 1959 American Tour," which was reprinted from their 1970 book Moments in the Rhetoric of the Cold War. In that fall of 1975, I knew none of these scholars, though I would come to know all of them over the course of the next decade or so. And my interactions with Bob Scott would revolve almost entirely around our shared interest in the rhetoric of the Cold War. [End Page 673]

I cannot now remember the fırst time I met Bob. It was doubtless sometime in the early to mid-1980s, but our acquaintanceship did not develop into a friendship until the winter of 1988. It was in that quarter that Bob and Betty traveled west to the University of California, Davis (UCD) to take a one-quarter visiting professorship at the university. As it happened, 1988 was my last year at UCD, so I was on my way out as Bob arrived. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knew Bob Scott that he was a marvelous colleague, a raconteur, a keen and analytical mind, and a tough critic. On most days Bob, Don Abbott, and myself would share lunch at one of the local eateries, strolling the three or four blocks into town to have fısh and chips or some other delicacy. It was great fun.

Mr. Scott, a mode of address that he seemed to encourage, was possessed of a wry sense of humor. Before his visit to Davis, I had hatched the idea of a new book on Cold War rhetoric. It was to be a book of parts with sections on strategy (Medhurst), metaphor (Ivie), and ideology (Wander). We convinced Bob to write the introductory chapter and made him the fourth author of the book. Some of our earliest correspondence involved negotiations with Greenwood Press:

I assume that you are going to take over and supervise having the whole thing typed or word processed since it should all be uniform. Only thing that makes sense to me. Have you thought this through? I am quite willing to lay out cash to pay for that work—since I assume that a professional should do it, not a klutz like MM.

Second problem is not problem from my point of view. List the names in what order. How about age? Ah, shucks, I guess not.

(January 30, 1988)1

Dear MM,

I notice that you do not have a social security number. Is this some sort of protest against government use of tax money to feed the war machine? A stand against the corrupting force of American capitalism?

Oh, well, You are an honorable person nonetheless.

Medhurst, of course, will do most of the work, since he has already agreed to do the bibliography, index, and get the fınal copy prepared for...


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pp. 673-679
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