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In Memoriam: James W. Michaels
Jim Michaels, who died last night at the age of 86, was Editor of Forbes Magazine for nearly 40 years, creating the franchise and in the process making a great fortune for the Forbes family, which they appear to have squandered.
Almost unknown outside the industry, part of his implicit dark concordat with an egomaniacal proprietor, Michaels was nevertheless a truly great editor, who left an indelible impression, not infrequently painful, on everyone who worked for him.
He was professionally and personally vital to me during my own career at the magazine. I have told elsewhere the story of his reaction to Steve Forbes' suppression of my Bell Curve cover story. He was supportive as I wrote Alien Nation while working for him full time, although we both knew the Forbes family would never allow the subject (or, as it turned out, the book) to be mentioned in the magazine. He reacted with contempt, although privately, when Kip Forbes was quoted in an interview attacking me over immigration. He was supportive throughout my late wife's long mortal illness and he was gracious and charming when he met my new wife a few weeks ago.
Despite his gentle demeanor, Michaels was a very tough man and not detectably sentimental, but I find I cannot contemplate his passing without grief.