Thinking Things Over

Written By Will Schultz

“Thinking Things Over” was a column in the Wall Street Journal written by Journal editor Vermont C. Royster (1914-1996). The column, which ran from 1964 until 1986, showcased Royster’s folksy language and conservative philosophy. Royster received a Pulitzer Prize for his work in 1984.

Before writing the “Thinking Things Over” columns, Royster worked for the Journal as a reporter, Washington bureau chief, and editorial writer. His editorials earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1953. In 1958, Royster became editor of the Journal; six years later he began “Thinking Things Over.” The title was a homage to “Thinking It Over,” a column written during the 1930s by Wall Street Journal editor Thomas Woodlock.

“Thinking Things Over” ran on a semi-regular basis. As one journalist put it, “[Royster] writes when the mood strikes him.” The column covered a wide range of subjects: the urban crisis in New York City, the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and the philosophy of Jesse Helms, to name three examples. Royster often articulated a conservative viewpoint. In one column, he wrote, “Nothing is so corrupting to a man as to believe it is his duty to save mankind from men. He comes to evil because he must first usurp the rights of men and finally the prerogatives of God.” But many columns dealt with personal issues. In one, Royster wrote about his grandchildren; others dealt with his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. When explaining his style, Royster himself said, “I try to sound like a neighbor talking.”
In 1984, Royster received a second Pulitzer for “Thinking Things Over.” Two years later he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan. Royster published the last “Thinking Things Over” column, titled “End of a Chapter,” on March 5, 1986. He died in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 22, 1996.