Thursday, May 11, 2006

Never a Farewell, Taylor

An obituary page isn’t the sort of place where the Rev. Dr. Taylor Scott IV’s name should be appearing. Not now. Not, if any of us could have helped it, ever: His name, his borderless mind, his humanitarian’s generosity prolifically filled the pages and hearts of life at its most vibrant — at the pulpit, in academic journals, in protest marches, around the dinner table, at his friends’ and family’s side. He was life. His death the morning of May 5, 2006, at age 74, with his beloved wife, Carol, his daughter, Carter, and his son, Taylor, at his side, at his home in Palm Coast, was — like the cancer it rode in — an intrusion, rude and not soon forgiven, though weak and passing compared to his memory: Taylor left his mark. This isn’t his last word.

Born on Dec. 27, 1931, in Richmond, Va., Taylor (who was reading Malone’s biography of Thomas Jefferson at the time of his death), attended the University of Virginia, the Virginia Theological seminary, and Duke University, where he earned his master’s in theology (Magna Cum Laude) in 1965, and his doctorate in 1971. His life from then on was a discoverer’s log-book — priest, professor, parent, philosopher, he held teaching and administrative positions at Duke, North Carolina State, St. Christopher School for Boys in Virginia, UNC-Greensboro, D.C.’s National Cathedral, Francis Marion University, the University of Florida and Stetson University. His ecclesiastical experience would impress St. Peter. His honors and awards would make Peter envious. His engaged activism, for civil rights, against the Vietnam War, and more recently against the Iraq war, might have inspired even a saint.

Taylor and I met less than four years ago. He’d been reading my columns, writing me — almost always longhand — and inviting me to his home. My mistake was not to accept immediately: it was time lost. But when we finally met, it was a debate from word one — not from disagreements, but from a spiral of ideas neither of us could control, and all of us, Carol and the friends we’d have around our mutual tables included, abetted. The rest...