The Thomas Merton We Knew

by William James Knight


     Jim Knight was raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and completed his formal education at Columbia College in New York. He was part of the writer's group at "Jester", Columbia's humor magazine, that included Thomas Merton, Edward Rice, Robert Lax and Robert Gerdy. He also joined these friends at intense summer writing sessions at the mountain cottage of Lax's brother-in-law, Benjy Marcus, in Olean, N.Y. He and Merton were together on a memorable hitch-hiking trip in June 1940 from Olean to Cleveland. During World War Two, Knight served five years in North Africa, Italy and Germany. When the war was over, he went to Paris, where he started his career as a newspaperman, working as a reporter, rewriter, copy deskman and then news editor, of the Paris edition of "The New York Herald Tribune". He has published a novel, "The Master of Chambord", which is a reminiscence of the heartland of France, and a slap at past and present government leaders who rely on force and violence alone.


Robert Lax, poet, died on September 26, 2000, at the family home in Olean, N. Y. He had been transported there from Greece because of the lack of suitable medical services on the island of Patmos. A Memorial Mass was held for him at Corpus Christi Church, near the Columbia campus, where he had been present at Thomas Merton's baptism into the Catholic Church in December 1938.


Edward Rice, editor, reporter, photographer, biographer, painter, and friend, died just short of a year later, on August 18, 2001, at Southampton Hospital on Long Island, of complications from pneumonia and from Parkinson's. Family and friends buried him on August 21 at St. Andrew's Cemetery near Sag Harbor, alongside Susanna.


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