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Marshall Lumsden dies at 88; founding editor of West magazine

Lumsden joined the Los Angeles Times in 1965 to develop a new magazine devoted to the West. The magazine debuted in 1966 and became known for its bright prose and high level of craftsmanship.

November 17, 2010|By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times

Marshall Lumsden, the founding editor of West, a Sunday magazine the Los Angeles Times introduced in 1966, died Friday at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. He was 88.

His death was caused by complications from colon cancer, said his wife, Wini.

He was the photography editor at the Saturday Evening Post before he joined The Times in 1965 to develop a new magazine devoted to "the wide field of subjects which interest western America," The Times said in announcing his hiring.

Subjects in the first issue included a newly created Lake Powell, "girl surfers," a Corona rehabilitation facility for narcotics addicts, and a report on how the East's "literary hatchet men first hit upon Southern California as a target for their barbs," The Times said a week before the magazine debuted on Sept. 11, 1966.

"He was a writer's editor," said Don Anderson, who was associate editor of West when it began. "He knew how to get the most out of the writers. West didn't pay a lot…but Marshall knew how to woo the writers and give them support."

The magazine became known for its "bright prose and high level of craftsmanship" as it published such writers as William Saroyan, Ray Bradbury, Carolyn See and Harry Shearer, according to a 2006 Times article.

"That's what we intended — a real writer's magazine," Lumsden told The Times in 2006.

In 1971, Lumsden left West and was soon the founding editor of another magazine, Human Behavior.

Marshall Edward Lumsden was born May 3, 1922, in Ithaca, Mich., and grew up on a farm. He was the eldest of seven children.

During World War II, he was a pilot with the Army Air Forces' 324th Fighter Group, which flew more than 28,000 sorties during the conflict.

Back home, Lumsden graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor's degree in history and then spent 13 years as a writer for Life magazine. He joined the Saturday Evening Post in 1961.

Later in his career, he worked in public affairs for oil company Arco. As a freelance writer, he remained a regular contributor to Smithsonian Air & Space magazine.

With his first wife, he had three daughters. Twice divorced, Lumsden lived in Malibu with Wini, his wife of 23 years.

An axiom by Lumsden originally published in a 1977 book of quotations summed up the gentle humor with which he approached life: "At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer."

In addition to his wife, Lumsden is survived by his daughters, Amy, Jane and Abigail; stepchildren Deborah and Ted Rutter; four brothers, Dick, Don, Norman and Walter; a sister, Carol; and eight grandchildren.

A memorial is being planned for early next year.

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