I'll Be Home

The Writings of Jim McGrath

By Jim McGrath
Edited by Darryl McGrath & Howard Healy

Subjects: New York/regional, Communication, Politics
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438474229, 218 pages, May 2019

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Table of contents

Foreword: When the Newspaper Needed to Speak from Its Soul
Rex Smith

Howard Healy


Introduction: The City That Jim Embraced
Howard Healy

The Race Is On in Albany, January 16, 1997

A Sad Note on Lark Street, February 19, 1997

Slayings Tarnish Soil of Albany’s Great Park, December 26, 1997

Drop This Case, April 27, 1998

Come Clean, Mr. Jennings, July 10, 1998

. . . A Defeat for the Machine, September 17, 1998

Albany’s Hot-Dog Politics, April 5, 1999

Justice for Ms. McEneny, May 7, 1999

Time to Right a Wrong: President Bush Should Award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Henry Johnson, April 24, 2001

Renewing Democracy Is Humbling, September 28, 2001

Jennings, Who Else? November 4, 2001

Outsiders Defy Odds in Albany, November 10, 2001

Whose City Is It? May 10, 2002

Albany’s Anguish, January 3, 2004

It’s All about the Guns, June 18, 2008

Audit the Ghosts, January 20, 2009

Jerry Jennings’s Fifth Term, Fall 2009

Memories of Larks at a Tavern, May 6, 2011


Introduction: Jim McGrath Loved Politics
Howard Healy


Preaching to the Faithful, March 17, 1995

All Eyes on Albany, December 22, 1999

Uneasy Justice, December 29, 2003

A Voting Outrage, May 19, 2001

Voter Beware, November 8, 2005

Transcript of As It Happens Interview on Eliot Spitzer’s Resignation, March 12, 2008

It’s Senator Clinton, November 8, 2000

Farewell, Mister Speaker, January 9, 1994

Some Names Worth Hearing Once Again, November 16, 2002


A Chance for Peace in Ulster, May 22, 1997

Mr. Adams and Mr. Blair, December 20, 1997

Ireland’s Peace Must Prevail, August 20, 1998

George Mitchell, Peacemaker, October 22, 1998

Day of Terror, September 12, 2001

The Day After, September 13, 2001

Rising from the Ruins One Year Later, A Pause to Ponder How We Have Changed, September 11, 2002


Introduction: A Certain Faith in Humanity
Bill Federman

More Unabomber Injustice, May 18, 1997

Cold Weather, Cold Truths, September 28, 1997

A Lesson Taught Too Late, July 20, 2001

Homeless in Albany, November 25, 2002

“No Room for Mercy,” September 5, 2003

Injustice, February 15, 2006

A Proud Day for New York, June 26, 2011

The World Owes So Much to Mandela, December 7, 2013


Introduction: McGrath Thought That Newspapers Ought to Tell the Truth
Dan Lynch

Royko Was the Real People’s Court, May 1, 1997

J. Anthony Lukas, June 10, 1997

Finding Fame in Telling Fibs, July 10, 1998

Mike Barnicle’s Sad Fall from Grace to Disgrace, August 8, 1998

Editorial and Op-Ed Page Critique of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, August 1999

Reality Check at Skidmore, November 16, 1999


Introduction: A Red Sox Fan Above All
Phillip Blanchard

Introduction: “Hey, Jim, How Does Yaz Spell His Name?”
Howard Healy

A Spectator’s View from the Seats, July 23, 1995

Stanford’s Band of Cruel Fools, October 15, 1997

Sox Appeal, June 20, 2004

Thanks for the Memories, February 20, 1999

How ’Bout Those Sawx? October 22, 2004

Why Didn’t He Do More? November 10, 2011


Introduction: A Man at Last at Peace with Himself
Darryl McGrath

Somebody’s Thinking of Charlie McGrath, June 20, 1993

A Road to New Hampshire, December 25, 1994

Soldiering On: Another Generation, Another War, Another Cause to Honor and Remember, May 26, 2002

“Journeys Like Mine Should Never Really End,” 2006

“I’ll Be Home”: Statement about My Work and My Goals, 2011

A Vanishing Call of the Wild, August 10, 2009

Boston, the Bulgers and Me, August 19, 2013

Small Town’s Appeal Crosses Generations: Cooperstown Sparks Musings of the Past and the Future, August 30, 2013


Jim McGrath’s Albany
Fred LeBrun

Jim McGrath: A Newspaperman
Robert Whitcomb


Meet My Not-So-Silent Partner, June 11, 1996
Dan Lynch
Times Union Editorial Writer Appointed, November 7, 1996

Guild Mourns the Loss of Jim McGrath, September 5, 2013

McGrath’s Keen Eye, Passion Recalled: Times Union’s Chief Editorial Writer, 56, Died While Vacationing, September 6, 2013
Steve Barnes

James M. McGrath, 1957–2013, September 8, 2013
Times Union Editorial Board

Obituary, September 12, 2013
Darryl McGrath

Eulogy, September 14, 2013
Darryl McGrath

Remembering Albany’s Voice of Reason, October 4, 2013
Lauren Mineau

Empowered to Do the Right Thing, December 7, 2013
Darryl McGrath


Editorials, op-eds, and other writings by a memorable newspaperman.


The winner of more awards than any editorial writer in the Albany Times Union's history, Jim McGrath was both an Albany institution and a keen observer of the world beyond his beloved adopted city. When he died in 2013 at the age of fifty-six, the newspaper lost a writer who combined a passionate advocacy for society's most vulnerable people with a scathing disregard for the elite whose actions created an underclass in the United States. His writing was often elegiac, but his take on his adopted home state of New York and his beloved Albany was variously bemused, witty, irreverent, and indignant. He could relate to the plight of the minimum-wage worker as easily as he could talk to a US senator, and he feared no one. His editorials and commentaries charted many of the most critical issues in New York and the country: the death penalty, civil liberties, gay rights, historic presidential campaigns, the economy, terrorism, and more—all with an incisiveness that remains relevant, if not more so, in the present political era.

In addition to his editorials and op-eds, I'll Be Home contains essays, critiques, and other writings that have never before been published, as well as appraisals of his work and life by former colleagues Rex Smith, Fred LeBrun, Dan Lynch, and others. The book is both a tribute to a memorable newspaperman and an insider's perspective on politics and life through the lens of an editorial writer, a position that Jim described as "a great seat at a really weird show. "

Jim McGrath was chief editorial writer at the Albany Times Union. He was named the Hearst Editorial Writer of the Year several times, and also received numerous first- and second-place awards by the New York State Associated Press Association, and two first-place awards by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association. His widow,Darryl McGrath, is an Albany journalist and the author of Flight Paths: A Field Journal of Hope, Heartbreak, and Miracles with New York's Bird People, also published by SUNY Press. Howard Healy is a copyeditor and proofreader for the New York State Bar Association; he retired as editorial page editor of the Times Union in 2008.


"McGrath's body of work reveals thematic threads, consistent styling, and a fixed set of principles that his faithful daily readers likely would not have focused on or even discerned. That makes his book an instructive text for beginners trying to figure out the tricks of persuasive editorial writing. How McGrath did it comes clear here. " — Literary Journalism Studies

"…I found his new book both inspiring and daunting. Read it and it's clear Jim set an impossibly high standard for those of us who continue in the profession he so loved. I hope our work, and my work, honors his. " — Chris Churchill, Albany Times Union

"Jim McGrath's voice is one, at heart, of place—of the Albany he adopted as his own, of the Boston neighborhood where he grew up—but it is also much more than that. It is a great American voice, lyrical, penetrating, and unfailingly original, and it was silenced too soon. But it is so good to hear it again in this beautiful book. " — Michael Larabee, Op-ed Editor, The Washington Post

"Jim McGrath was a great American voice, a no-nonsense journalist who wrote eloquently about intolerance, injustice, poverty, and corruption. He wasn't afraid to tell the truth, and he did so masterfully. His work is inspiring, witty, profound, and kindhearted. No wonder so many held him in high esteem—even those he skewered. " — Sam Roe, Chicago Tribune

"For me, Albany has always been home, and it was the great honor and privilege of my life to have been its mayor for twenty years. For Jim, Albany, became his adopted home, a place he loved and cared for as passionately as I did and that mutual love for this place was the bond we shared. Even when we disagreed, we respected each other's commitment to our community and to its residents who relied on us in different, but equally important ways. And whether it was across the table at an editorial board meeting, or sharing a beverage at McGeary's, Jim was never hesitant to speak truth to power. His writings, many of which I took issue with, always reflected his commitment to honesty, accuracy, and fairness. That commitment made Albany a better city and without question it made me a better mayor. This book bears witness to Jim's legacy and to the impact he had on our community and on so many lives. It also serves as a testament to the vital role a great journalist plays in the vibrancy of our democratic process. The lessons to be learned here could not come at a better time. For all that we are in his debt. " — Jerry Jennings, Mayor of Albany, 1994–2013

"Jim's arguments were thoughtful and his writing was elegant. But what stands out most in this collection are his passion and his humanity. His passion for journalism. His passion for fairness. His passion for truth. He railed against injustice. He scoffed at heavy-handed politics. He spoke out on behalf of those who couldn't speak for themselves. Even in print, you could see his arms waving in outrage as he called upon society to rectify another of its shortcomings. " — Benjamin Weller, Newsday