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Hero of the Day - Albert Jay Nock

We Americans are given to worshipping false idols. Sadly, we sometimes can't see real greatness even in our own backyard.

Unheralded and unreported, real greatness lies buried directly across the street from the South Kingstown Town Hall. An open chain-link fence invites us into Riverside Cemetery. We enter over a meandering road that takes us over a small bridge, then a sharp left, over a serpentine drive, ending at another gate, behind which is an oil storage tank area. The object of our search is the gravesite of a bona fide great one, Albert J. Nock (AJN), the subject of this report.

Fifty feet or so, before the gate, on the right side of the road, is AJN's simple, moss-encrusted headstone; it reads:

"Albert Jay Nock; Oct. 13, 1879-Aug. 19, 1945."

His obituary reads: "Wakefield, R.I. August 24, 1945. ALBERT JAY NOCK BURIED HERE. Private funeral services for Dr. Albert Jay Nock, celebrated educator, author, and critic, were held Tuesday afternoon at 8 o'clock at the house of Miss Ruth Robinson, where he died Sunday Morning . . . burial was in Riverside Cemetery."

"For more than twenty years a frequent visitor in Wakefield, Dr. Nock was 72 years old . . . Dr. Nock was at one time editor of The Freeman, and about 15 years ago was appointed visiting professor of American history and politics at Columbia University."

Two years before he died, Mr. Nock's autobiography was published under the provocative title, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Not your ordinary story this; it traces the intellectual development of one of our country's distinguished literary men. His self-effacing nature, and his frustrations, led him to question the worth of his commentary on the issues of the time. He labeled himself as superfluous to the society in which he lived. Hence, the title of his Memoirs. In the preface, he wrote, "Personal publicity of every kind is utterly distasteful to me." Indeed, he was a private man.

Mr. Nock's depth of knowledge was boundless. His commentary illuminated the events of his times from politics to feminism, education to literature. He analyzed through the eyes of a classical scholar, and from the framework of history. Thus he was able to anticipate many of the problems that plague us today. In The Disadvantages of Being Educated, he identified the coercive government school system as a powerful pressure group, with "trade-unionists" and "jobseekers" inflicting flawed theory upon the youth of the nation. He would understand fully the genesis of today's cookie-cutter, mass-produced "graduates" of public schools who carry diplomas they can't read.

Mr. Nock directed his commentary to what he called the "Saving Remnant," a minority who "see things as they are" and pass it on to the future. His voice, dedicated to individual liberty, still echoes in his writings.

Far from being a Superfluous Man, Nock was the Renaissance Man, the Superlative Man. His like will not pass this way again.

Those of the "Remnant" who seek to learn more may contact Robert Thornton at his Nockian Society, 42 Leathers St., Fort Mitchell, KY 41017.

    —excerpted from "A Hero of Yesterday Buried in Our Midst" by Harold J. Landfield, [originally] published at Laissez Faire

Copyright © 2000, The Daily Objectivist - Reprinted with permission of The Daily Objectivist and

7 Apr 2009