George Laird Hunt, The Outlook’s editor from 1979 to 1988, was truly a “man for all seasons.” George died on Oct. 15 at the age of 94 in Lakeland, Fla., where he had lived since his retirement. (see p. 14)
His editorship formed a sturdy bridge between the 35-year tenure of Aubrey Brown, who preceded him, and the 15-year tenure of the editor who followed him. Instead of taking early retirement, he accepted the greatest challenge of his career at age 60 and served faithfully until age 70.
One of George’s major accomplishments was to create a place for a new editor in a structure that had been created by Ernest Trice Thompson, predecessor to Aubrey, and which also included both Aubrey and Jim Brown, whom Aubrey had brought in to manage the business affairs of the “paper,” as it was then called. George was always something of an outsider in this group, but he managed the situation gracefully.
Second, George was a “Northerner,” an outstanding minister from the PCUSA/UPUSA stream that united with the PCUS in 1983 to form the PC(USA). The Outlook was the product of more than a score of independent Presbyterian papers (mostly Southern) going back to 1819 when the first paper, The Missionary, was published by the first editor in Mt. Zion, Ga. In 1954, with The Outlook’s merger with the sole survivor of PCUSA independent journals, The Presbyterian Tribune, it was truly a “national” publication.
Even so, it actually continued to be read predominantly by Southern Presbyterians until George’s coming. Gradually readership expanded across the reunited church and the paper became in fact a national Presbyterian journal of news and opinion.
After reunion in 1983, George played a very significant role in the first five years, during which time the new denomination’s organization was hammered out. He attended all meetings of the new General Assembly Council and many other meetings where the mission design was being crafted.
It was a complex time, and the value of having careful journalists such as George reporting both the story and the “story behind the story” meant that readers would be fully informed of what was coming down the pipeline for General Assembly action. In fact, one moderator said at the time: “Many times we did not know what we had done, but George was there writing it all down!”
George was progressive in his views without lacking appreciation of all views. His was a generous and open spirit.
Fittingly, George’s editorship was ending at the time the new Presbyterian Center was dedicated in Louisville.
This outstanding “man for all seasons” had a fascinating and productive career. He was a fine pastor of several churches, including a new church development. He came to The Outlook from a large New Jersey congregation. He was a curriculum editor for the UPCUSA General Assembly Board of Christian Education. He was a writer of articles and books, widely used in the church. He was an avid reader who loved reviewing books for The Outlook. He was an ecumenist, serving as the first executive director of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) while serving in a pastorate. His Scottish Presbyterian heritage was a matter of great pride and he always included his middle name — “Laird” — in his signature. He was a loyal participant in the life of Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Richmond and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Orlando.
George was a faithful husband to his first wife, Mary Alice Minear, and loving father to his children by that marriage — Laurence, Bruce and Marcia Beth and their children — and to his second, Ruth Boynton, who survives him, and her children.
George was a much appreciated gentle and faithful tutor to me, the younger editor who followed. George Laird Hunt made an outstanding contribution at a critical time in the life of The Presbyterian Outlook and the reunited PC(USA).
It is fitting that George have the last word. In his final editorial on his last day in the office, he wrote: “Yes, gratitude must be my last word to you [the readers]. You have crowned my ministry with great joy and satisfaction. I thank God for every remembrance of you.”