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Baggs, William C. (1920-1969) | University of Miami Finding Aids

Name: Baggs, William C. (1920-1969)
Variant Name: Bill Baggs

Historical Note:

William Calhoun “Bill” Baggs was born In Atlanta, Georgia, on September 30, 1920, the son on C.C. Baggs and the former Kate Bush. Baggs declined an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1941, and travelled to Panama where he worked as a stevedore and copy reader with the Panama Star and Herald. During World War II Baggs served as a pilot with the 485th Bomber Group of the 14th Air Force in North Africa and Italy. Baggs married the former Joan Orr of Athens, Georgia, in 1945 and worked for the Greensboro News (North Carolina) before accepting a position as a reporter with the Miami News in 1946. He was promoted to editor in 1957.

Bill Baggs began a daily column in 1949 and soon became an intimate part of the Miami journalism and political landscape. At the request of President John F. Kennedy, Baggs served of the United States Mission that established the Caribbean Organization. Among countless local activities Baggs served on the Citizens Board of the University of Miami, the Metro Community Relations Board, the State Constitution Revision Commission, and the Cuban Refugee Resettlement Commission. He was also director of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

In 1959 Baggs received the Leonard Abess Human Relations award for his editorial campaign to keep Florida schools open when legislators threatened to close schools rather than end segregation. Baggs fought successfully for the establishment of Cape Florida State Park. He also received the Eleanor Roosevelt-Israel Humanities Award for his editorial on behalf of the State of Israel. Baggs was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring peace to Vietnam. He died shortly before the National Conference of Christians and Jews was able to present him with its highest honor, the Brotherhood Medallion.

As Director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Baggs made two trips to Vietnam with State Department approval, in January, 1967, and March, 1968. Baggs and the Center's executive vice president, Harry Ashmore, told of their experiences in a book, Mission to Hanoi: A Chronicle of Double-Dealing in High Places. They returned from Vietnam with the initial aide memoire that set forth North Vietnam position on negotiations with the United States. The memoire was delivered to Ambassador William H. Sullivan in Vientiane, Laos, on April 6, 1968. Baggs wrote and published extensively, in newspapers journals and books. He also appeared frequently on television and traveled the country as a speaker.

Bill Baggs died in Miami Florida, on January 7, 1969, of complications from viral pneumonia.

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