It was May 23, 1999, and I was chatting with my mentor, Harold Weisberg.
I had known the man since 1968 and our conversations routinely took place in his book- and newspaper-cluttered living room, he in his comfortable easy chair and me bent over a legal pad on a nearby hassock. Occasionally we’d amble the few steps to his office where he’d ease himself into a padded seat behind an equally jumbled desk, guiding me as I rummaged through his neighboring “Subject Index Files.” Those files were his main source, the most-often used records, the ones he would initially direct most visiting researchers to, and he kept them here because they were easily accessible, for everyone. By far, though, most of his records were stored in the basement. As the years progressed, however, he stopped venturing there. Admittance to that massive collection was only by way of old, wooden, not-well-lit stairs more risky to descend than those at the Depository.
Today was different, though. And I didn’t like it. I found him propped up in a bed at the Frederick Health Care Center, another name for a nursing facility, not too far from his home. He was there recovering from his most recent battle with illnesses that would soon claim his life.
He had called a week earlier to ask that I bring along my tape recorder on this visit. He said he had something to say. I thought that rather odd of him since, in my opinion, he always had something to say. It was a rambling conversation—not as detailed on this go around due to his weakened voice—and it slowly weaved in and out from one piece of the puzzle to another. And then another. It lasted more than three hours.
When we finished, Weisberg said it had been his most lengthy, wide-spanning and revealing interview ever. Perhaps that is why he had wanted it taped. Perhaps deep down he felt this one just might be his last.
Since publication of my book—its origins coming from one of Weisberg’s patented “assignments” to me—many readers have inquired about that conversation. For what it’s worth then, a transcript of it can now be found under the “Interviews” tab. Some will no doubt favor his remarks; some I’m quite sure will strongly disagree. But in either case, these were his words back when.