TCS Daily

Lost at Sea

By James K. Glassman - June 14, 2006 12:00 AM

On Saturday afternoon, Philip Merrill, publisher of The Washingtonian magazine and the Annapolis Capital and until recently president of the Export-Import Bank, set out in his 41-foot sailboat, The Merrilly, for a three-hour cruise across the Chesapeake Bay, where winds were blowing at 20 knots. He was alone, but that was not unusual. Merrill, fit at 72, was a skilled and experienced sailor.

But, as I write, three days later, he has not come back. The sailboat was found, but he was not aboard, and a search that included six boats, helicopters and a C-130 aircraft could not find him.

Phil Merrill was my first boss in Washington. He taught me publishing and editing, and he convinced me to become a financial writer. He was a wonderful man, one of a kind.

Phil Merrill was vigorous to the point of abrasiveness -- and beyond. But he had characteristics that were strikingly and endearingly non-Washington-like. For example, Phil said what was on his mind. Blurted it out, then said it again and again -- often with a stuttering "you, you, you," instead of "uh, uh, uh." He had strong views, but they were generally smart and accurate. And if you convinced him that he was wrong, he had the unlikely quality of admitting it.

The son of a Russian immigrant, he was enormously optimistic about America, a free-marketeer without dogma. He moved back and forth between government and business, and both benefited from what he learned in the other. He was generous with his time and his money. Now, a man so full of life has been lost at sea.

James K. Glassman is host of TCS Daily.

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