Straight Down the Middle

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Accuracy in Academia lost a great friend with the passing of Troy University journalism professor Chris Warden, the author of AIA’s forthcoming textbook Voodoo Anyone? How to Understand Economics Without Really Trying.

He passed away on January 4, due to complications from hip surgery. The loss to his expansive coterie of close friends on both coasts and throughout the South is even more incalculable, your servant among them.

I last spoke to Chris the day before Thanksgiving when, as usual, he was in good spirits—upbeat and funny as ever—with plans and enthusiasm for last-minute changes and addenda to the book. AIA featured Chris in an appearance at the National Press Club last July.

Many of the attendees, like his charges at Troy and staffers and interns under his supervision in other jobs, stayed long after hours to hear his insights. Chris always took his jobs and responsibilities very seriously but did not take himself too seriously.

So many of the clichés most of us try vainly to live by Chris actually did. For instance, he worked hard and played hard, mostly golf and the horses.

He practiced informal efficiency. He was one of those rare people who could actually be both informal and efficient at the same time, for example, banging out flawless copy while clad in a Hawaiian shirt with a turtleneck underneath.

We can’t find any record of Chris ever having to make a correction on one of his stories. Against the sheer volume of pieces he produced, from newsletters in the 1980s to newspaper columns published last Fall, that level of accuracy is indicative of his professionalism.

Nobody could be more self-deprecating than Chris. When we discussed Voodoo Anyone? last year, he said, “Hey, did you ever imagine 20 years ago when we were drinking coffee all day and beer all night that some day we would be doing something useful?”

The truth is, every day of his life was useful, and he did it all—research, reporting, writing, editing, and teaching—often while in tremendous pain. Hemophiliac from birth, arthritic since childhood, Chris frequently functioned while in a fragile or frail condition.

Many years ago, I asked him how he did it. He credited his parents, a pair of remarkable retirees, with teaching him sympathy without self-pity.

He demonstrated the former toward all whom he came in contact with but never showed any evidence of the latter. During World War II, the British placed posters all over London which read simply, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

This is another little aphorism Chris lived by. “Well, the bathtub’s full of water, got plenty of batteries and beer, Pop Tarts are laid in, so I think I’m ready for Ivan when it hits, supposedly Wednesday about midnight,” he wrote in an e-mail when a hurricane was aimed for the state that he lived in—Alabama—five years ago.

“Should be fine,” he predicted, “as long as I don’t pretend I’m a Weather Channel reporter and venture out into the 80+ mph winds they are predicting.” He survived Hurricane Ivan, and, as indicated above, so much else.

An obituary prepared by his family and friends notes that “he is survived by his parents, B. E. (Jack) and Louise, of Nisswa, Minnesota, and a sister, Kathleen, of Minneapolis, an aunt and uncle, many cousins, several godchildren, and all his students.”

With the publication of Voodoo Anyone?, at least some of the lessons he taught in the classroom will live on as well. “By understanding just one aspect of economic analysis in simple terms, the media can better inform the public,” he wrote in the introduction to Voodoo Anyone? “In turn, people can make better choices in their lives.”

The textbook that he left us goes a long way towards achieving that goal. Fortunately, in his too brief life, Chris got to realize the goals he cared about most.

In the quarter century in which I have known him, he always wanted to teach, and did, much more effectively than the professors whom we usually get to write about. Moreover, his students learned.

You can’t really die if you leave behind good memories and a life that lessons can be learned by. In my humble opinion, Chris did both, with a vengeance.

Rest easy, pal. I hope that you are surrounded by beer, pop tarts, post times, tee times and every other thing that your heart desires.

Eternal rest grant to him O Lord and Let Perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.


Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.