12 January 2006 by Published in: General News 6 comments

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of Robert J. Younger, the owner and publisher of Morningside Books and Gettysburg Magazine. Those of us who care about Civil War books and Civil War history owe Bob Younger a great debt.

Sweet Old Bob, or SOB, as he liked to call himself, was an irascible, difficult fellow. I seriously doubt that I’ve ever met a more stubborn man than Bob. He had a retail store but didn’t want people coming into it. Go figure. If he liked you, he would give you the shirt off his back. If he didn’t like you–and the list of Bob Younger’s enemies is enormous–forget it. If he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t sell you a book. If he was in a bad mood, he wouldn’t sell you a book. He didn’t care if it was costing him business.

I’ve actually been in both camps. I started out as a favorite of his, and then, as the bearer of bad news, I became the enemy. A group I led tried to buy Morningside a number of years ago, and due to the health of Bob’s business, we couldn’t finance the deal with a bank, and the transaction died on the vine because he wouldn’t seller finance the entire deal. Instead of recognizing that he had a role in the deal dying–it was the health of his business, not anything I did or said, that caused multiple lenders to decline to do the deal–I became the bad guy and hence an enemy. Never mind the fact that his magazine had published five of my articles and that I was one of his mainstays. Never mind that I spent $1500 a year buying books from him. It didn’t matter. I was now one of the enemy. I never published another word in his magazine after that.

In spite of all of that, Bob made it possible for dozens of otherwise out of print books to become available again. He virtually invented the Civil War book reprinting business himself, and did some books that are still not available anywhere else, even to this day. The regimental history of the 8th Illinois Cavalry is just one that comes to mind immediately. His reprints included the Officials Records (both army and naval), the Confederate Veteran, the Southern Historical Society Papers, and lots of the Neale books. An old printer, Bob often did the printing himself and by hand. He also brought out some quality new titles under the Morningside imprint such as the James E. Taylor Scrapbook of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, which is one of my favorite books. His books were never pretty to look at, but I don’t buy books because they’re pretty. I buy them because of what’s in them, and he published some good ones, such as Ed Bearss’ trilogy on the Vicksburg Campaign and also Ed’s study of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.

Bob was also responsible for Gettysburg Magazine. Although the quality of the articles has gone down in the past several years, it still remains the premier publication for those interested in the Gettysburg Campaign. It was entirely his baby, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to it now that he’s gone. I hope that it will live on.

So, although I had my issues with Bob, I never lost my respect for him. I recognize his place in this book business of ours, and I had to recognize his passing.

Rest in peace, SOB. I wouldn’t want to be St. Peter today….I imagine you’re giving him hell just like you did with the rest of us.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Dave Kelly
    Thu 12th Jan 2006 at 9:50 pm

    Sad news indeed.

    Always loved getting Mr Younger on the phone when I placed an order with Morningside. Almost always turned into a half hour bull session on the War or publishing that was priceless.

  2. Thu 12th Jan 2006 at 10:43 pm

    my experience with Bob on the phone placing orders couldn’t have been more opposite!…big LOL.

  3. Mike Peters
    Fri 13th Jan 2006 at 12:11 pm

    When I called, I always got the “SOB” side — gruff, arrogant, “I don’t care if you buy it or not” attitude. Maybe I read him wrong or he was just having a bad day. I do enjoy his books though.

    Mike

  4. Tue 17th Jan 2006 at 3:20 pm

    I first met Bob in 1988, and must say that my relationship with him, by and large, was always good. He was as everyone describes–brash, bold, on occasion rude, and direct. Once he cussed out my secretary on the phone and hung up on her. I called him back and read HIM the riot act. “You can talk to me however you like, but don’t you dare yell at my staff.” He never did again, and later joked with me about it. He just like to know where everyone stood.

    He also had a heart of gold and a side that few knew. When he paid especially close attention to my infant daughter many years ago (she attended many conferences with us in baby seats, strollers, etc.) I was amazed at his gentleness. It was then I learned from someone that Bob and Mary had lost a child or two in infancy. They never had any more.

    Bob took in people down on their luck, fed them, gave them jobs packing books, and was often ripped off in the process–but that was Bob. “These people need help,” he told me once. “Who the hell is going to give them a chance if I don’t?”

    The stories he told me (and others told me about him) are priceless. The Indian women story, the monkey and the toothbrush, the early days on Jerry Russell’s bus tours, and of course the Hustler color-adujustment tale–I am laughing as a type just thinking about them. And of course there was the time he and Gil made a trip out west to sell books. On the way home in the desert (they took a short cut) they stopped and climbed out to relieve themselves. Gil locked the keys in the truck–and then lost them. Can you not see Bob chasing Gil around the truck in the middle of nowhere threatening to kill him? Four hour later in 110 degree heat a good samaritan finally found them.

    I owe Bob a larger debt than most since I have been publishing books since the early 1990s. He was never hesitant to give me good advice when I called to ask him a question. All of us should pick up our favorite Morningside book, fill a glass, lift it high, and tip our hat in respect.

    Finally, Bob sent me a Xmas card just a few weeks ago in which he wrote that he and Mary were looking forward to the knee replacment and sale of the business so they could spend a few well earned years just rocking on a Missouri porch. They will never get that chance.

    I think there is a moral in that sad story, don’t you?

    Bob, I miss you already. God’s speed on your journey.

    tps

  5. Charles Bowery
    Sat 21st Jan 2006 at 5:28 am

    I will echo the comments on Mr. Younger. I never met him personally, but he was kind enough to publish my article on the 124th New York at the Triangular Field in his January 2004 issue, and I will be forever grateful for that. During the publishing process, he pushed me to refine my conclusions and create a better product. I hope Gettysburg Magazine and the great work that Morningside House has done will continue.
    Charles Bowery

  6. Fri 17th Feb 2006 at 4:26 pm

    I have known Bob since the late 1970s and I have enjoyed reading the afore-printed messages. They inspire so many responses that space here won’t permit.

    Bob was always quite pleasant with me whether at a show or on the phone–perhaps he recognized a fellow son-of-a-bitch when he saw one and liked me for it. Who knows. He didn’t treat my staff with the same respect, however. One by one they announced that they would not deal with him on the phone. Finally, I was the only one who would take Bob’s calls. This is over the span of 30 years and quite a few employees!

    Nonetheless, he was one of a kind and we owe him a substantial debt of gratitude for his contributions to the field of Civil War literature. Thanks, Bob. (I only regret never having met Mary–she must be a saint!)
    SWS

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