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Elliott Maraniss, right, pictured with editor emeritus Dave Zweifel in the Cap Times newsroom in 1981. “I never knew the incredible turmoil that he and his family endured,” says Zweifel.

When I joined the staff at The Capital Times back in June of 1962, I was assigned to a desk directly across from Elliott Maraniss.

Being an avid follower of the paper, I knew the byline well because it was consistently atop many of the paper's major stories and investigations. He had been at the paper for only five years, but he already was considered a star among Wisconsin journalists.

Lucky for me, this seasoned newspaperman took me under his wing, helping me get off to a good start by giving me tips on how to cultivate sources and find the "hook" on stories to gain readers' attention. And, yes, pointing out my grammatical shortcomings.

Even though we climbed up the newspaper's ladder together, I really didn't get to know Elliott's past very well. He rarely talked about it, even during the years when he managed our fast-pitch softball team and we'd settle the world's problems over beers after a game.

What I did know is that he was fired from his Detroit newspaper job after being confronted by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee and his brief time running the strike newspaper "Labor's Daily" in Davenport before landing the job at The Capital Times.

What I never knew was the incredible turmoil that he and his family endured in the years after the Detroit firing that his son, David, so vividly describes in this outstanding book. Here, right beside me for more than 20 years was a bona fide victim of the Red Scare that destroyed so many lives, the very evils of McCarthyism that The Capital Times virtually fought alone until Ed Murrow famously called him out on TV. All along, Elliott knew just how dangerous and truly un-American this whole era represented.

Now I understand Elliott's passion for the paper, his idolization of William T. Evjue and why he told me once that if the Pulitzer Prizes mean anything, Evjue would have been given one for taking on McCarthy when no one else would.

The irony to me is that Elliott was proud of his World War II service, his command of an all-black unit and their performance during the war. David's book makes clear that he could have become a bitter man, but he wasn't.

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He had too much faith in the American people to, in the end, do what's right.

But, as David's tribute to his dad underscores, we must never let down our guard.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com