On the Life of William Norman Grigg

One of the greatest joys of my life was being able to work right next to William Norman Grigg at The New American magazine from 1994-2001 in Appleton, Wisconsin. I had been one of the staffers who had moved out from Belmont, Massachusetts to Appleton in 1989, and he was quickly added to the magazine’s staff after some brilliantly-written columns in 1993.

"Thesaurus Rex," as he was sometimes called in Appleton, wrote for the internal newsletter of the company we called "The Insider Report" with a wit and vocabulary that made everyone in the office belly laugh. Hardly any of his satiric wit made it into the print magazine, because the style of the magazine at the time was to limit satire. But it was a joy to read, and I’m richer for having access to it. Much of my own writing style is a pale shadow of Will Grigg’s thundering style of prose.

One example of his wit was his description of the apprehension of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski in "The Insider Report." He had written that the environmental terrorist Kaczynski – who had been apprehended unbathed – had experienced in "personal biodiversity while living in a yurt made of his own offal." I read it and laughed, even though at the time I didn’t know what a "yurt" or "offal" was (though I had a pretty good idea from the context). So I looked them up in a dictionary … and laughed again, even louder.

Of course, there were two senior editors and three researchers who wrote for "The Insider Report," but Will Grigg wrote the majority of the content. And he wrote the best content. He was a voracious reader, and his reading inevitably made it into his articles. Will was for a decade the magazine’s most prolific writer, and the writer most readers looked forward to reading most.

I left The New American‘s staff before he did, and for different reasons than his departure. His split with The New American and its parent organization, the John Birch Society, in 2005 was acrimonious. I won’t go into that other than to observe that both sides could have toned it down. I tried to smooth things over to prevent Will’s departure, but was not successful. There are plenty of people who would want to beat up on The New American magazine for firing him as his wife Korrin got sick, leaving Will as the only caretaker of his five children (they have six now). There are a few who deserve some blame for that. But the result of the firing was that the magazine was greatly diminished. Ironically, the years immediately following Will’s firing was my most prolific time as a freelancer for The New American. I tried to fill the gap, but no one could replace Will Grigg.

But Will also faced a loss. Leaving The New American diminished Will’s writing production, as he took more time to make ends meet and deal with domestic issues. Will was thunderous after 2005 right up until he got sick last month, but never even close to being as prolific as during his time with The New American.

I was enriched by his friendship, even though it was a long distance one beginning in 2001. Will was unbelievably friendly, omni-curious, and wholly devoted to his wife and children. Mostly I will remember him for his great personal wit and vocabulary, whether it was in print or in a face-to-face conversation. I will greatly miss that.

His family needs help more now than ever, as his children grow up without a father.

Republished with permission from Thomas R. Eddlem’s blog.

  • Don

    Of what cause did Will die?

    • JimSmith

      An infection if I understood correctly.

      • He was hospitalized recently with an infection — IIRC, sepsis. My understanding is that he was out of the hospital and recovering at home when he suffered a fatal heart attack. But I only have that at second hand and it might be incorrect.

        • JimSmith

          Ok thanks for the info. Prayers for his family!

  • Don

    This article is long on telling us what Will didn’t do and what he stopped doing but it’s short on telling us what he ‘did’ do. Not a good tribute to the man at all. Are you going to tell us what is missing and perhaps tell us why Will left the New American mag?

    • Sure, if by “long,” you mean “part of one of paragraph out of eight.”

      This will be your only warning: Stop trying to find ways to piss on our dead comrade or you’ll be shown the door.

      • Don

        That’s not what I was doing and i’ve been careful to not do that because I respected the person involved. You’ll find me doing that in one of the other threads on Will as others turned it into a debate.

    • JimSmith

      He was one of the finest journalists on the planet. I believe he left the magazine over something to do with comments he was making about mormonism outside work time. There are mormons in JBS and I guess Will was criticizing some of that religion’s teachings. I’m no expert it’s just what I heard but it’s irrelevant now, RIP WIll and thanks for all you did.

      • Thomas Eddlem

        I can say with confidence that Will’s departure from The New American/JBS had nothing to do with his conversion to fundamentalist Christianity from Mormonism. When Will left the staff, there weren’t any Mormons left in JBS leadership.

        • JimSmith

          Oh ok thanks that’s just the rumors I heard him and others talking about.

    • Thomas Eddlem

      Don, I don’t argue with your point. This was a quick dash of words on the night Will died. The story of his leaving The New American needs to be told, and I’ll be one of the ones telling it in the not-to-distant future. :)

      • Don

        Thanks for your reply Thomas. I was simply saying that it didn’t come off as a very well written tribute to the man. However, it can be excused perhaps if it was just a quick dash.

        My point was never meant to demean him, it was a criticism of your piece.

        My sympathies.

      • Don

        Thank you for your understanding Thomas but it looks like the inevitable is now happening via Angela. I think Thomas Knapp and here were just pushed too far by me, an uppity foreigner. They can feel good about it if they can keep it in their own minds as an affront to their friend. At least you had the ability to understand it was just a criticism of your article.

    • Don, you don’t give enough money to justify the space you take on a platform for which I secure funding. Take a few days off, sweetie.

      • Don

        I’ll be away starting on next Friday and until Tuesday Angela. I hope that fulfills your request because I can’t do anything else. I won’t fund a site that isn’t up to my own personal standards as concerns the antiwar agenda, and I don’t respond to blackmail threats for money in a positive way.

        If your schtick isn’t libertarian, then I find it strange that you would be threatening me after I’ve been responsible for doubling the activity on this site and being on the right side of the cause all along, re. Raimondo. A thank you would be more expected. Something to do with America first Angela?

        Sorry for using this thread to contact you but you chose it and I have no other choice. And no offence to Will of course, that was just Thomas Knapp’s outlet for his anger in which he stews.

        And damn, just when it started to look like we had Riamondo back on board and most of the people were coming together with me on making this site a factor to be noticed!

        You and your friends have a nice day now, ya’all hear!

        luv from Canada.

        • Mr. Heather, it’s Ms. Keaton, not “Angela.” Go die in a house fire.

  • JimSmith

    RIP Will. I was a huge fan of your writing. The world is a lesser place without you. I’ve enjoyed your articles since you were with TNA and after that. I hope the liberty movement will come together to ensure that Will’s family is cared for until they can get on their feet.

  • A lot of William Grigg’s work is available online via his blog Pro Libertate. In addition to being a an excellent writer, he was also an excellent researcher. The blog deals with many topics such as FBI crime/entrapment & mingling with radical right groups in much greater depth and detail than other sources.

  • pensword

    To God we belong and to Him we return.

    My condolences. Will was a magnificent writer.

  • jk

    Will Grigg was an amazing band mate, and a cherished friend. One of my greatest memories of him was whenever the mood would strike to play the National Anthem on his guitar before a gig…with his teeth! Over the last couple of years we would occasionally run into each other and promise we would find more time to hang out together. Sadly, that opportunity will not come again. God’s speed, Will. And thank you for enriching our lives with your knowledge, your wit, and your passion. I miss you terribly.