By Special to the Daily World
William Alexander Scott III, beloved husband, father and grandfather of the Scott family, shared his rich and vibrant life with the family to whom he was devoted, and the community for which he cared so deeply. A brilliant man of many talents, he continually surprised even those who knew him with the depth of his experience and wisdom, and the breadth of his intellectual interests. Businessman, chess master, loving father and grandfather, film critic, radio show host, artist, poet and public servant, W.A. Scott brought his intelligence, humor and integrity to all of his pursuits. He celebrated life.
Last year, “W.A.,” as he was known to family and friends, was honored for his “valiant service” with the Allied Forces in liberating the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and was appointed by President George Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. It was an honor in which he took particular pride, along with his membership in the now legendary Tuskegee Airmen Inc. In 1991, he was also included among the “Hidden Treasures: African American Photographers in Atlanta, 1870 – 1970: at the APEX Museum.
W.A. Scott’s life began in Johnson City, Tenn., where he was born on Jan. 15, 1923. That year, his family moved to Atlanta, where his father, W.A. Scott II, founded the Atlanta Daily World newspaper in 1928. He attended the Atlanta University Elementary and Laboratory High schools. From childhood he worked at the Atlanta World in various capacities, from paper-boy and clean-up person, to sports statistician, movie and play critic, and photographer.
“W.A.” was studying business administration and mathematics at Morehouse College, and waiting to marry his childhood sweetheart, Marian Willis, when he was called up for the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. He served from 1943 to 1946. He and Marian married on Aug. 28, 1944, just before he was shipped overseas. Scott served as a photographer with the 318th Airbase Squadron and the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion. While with the 183rd in Germany, Scott was one of the first Allied soldiers to enter Buchenwald. After the war, he returned to Atlanta and completed his education at Morehouse. He began his married life with Marian, and in 1948 became circulation manager at the Atlanta Daily World. During the years, Scott covered many events of historical significance occurring in this area, sometimes as the lone African American walking into a Southern hamlet to investigate a lynching. In 1984, he became publications and advertising manager, a post he held until his death.
Throughout his years, “W.A.” was active in the life of Atlanta and involved in many civic and professional associations. In 1986, Scott was appointed by Mayor Andrew Young to serve on the “Committee of 150” to plan the city’s 150th anniversary, and by Gov. Joe Frank Harris as a charter member of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. He served on a number of boards: the NAACP, the Educational Foundation of Metro Atlanta (Better Business Bureau); the Atlanta Council of International Visitors; the Educational Information and Referral Service Inc. (American Association of University Women); Grady Memorial Hospital Board of Visitors; the ZACHOR Committee of the Atlanta Jewish Federation and as historian for the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
Scott was a member of First Congregational Church, the Georgia Council of Human Relations; the Greater Atlanta Council of Human Relations; the Committee to Celebrate the First Official National Holiday Commemorating the Life of Martin Luther King Jr.; and was a charter member of the Atlanta Area UNICEF Advisory Board. In addition, he served as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Atlanta Housing Authority; a community advisor for the Atlanta Family Services Society; a member and exhibitor with the Atlanta Arts Festival, and on the Public Affairs Advisory Council for the Headquarters, United States Army Command.
Well known in the area for his expertise in chess and rated an expert by the United Chess Federation, Scott was president of the Atlanta Chess Association for three years. He was proud to have won the Georgia State Open Chess Championship in 1963, followed in 1967 by three distinct honors: Atlanta Chess Champion, Speed Champion, and chairman of the host committee for the 88th Annual U.S. Open Chess Championship Tournament.
Precious among the memories will be the many good-humored “tall tales” of W.A.’s adventures, his refusal to be downcast or embittered, his buoyancy and loyalty, and his constant discovery of the amazing and new.
Editor’s Note: This is the obituary — less the list of survivors — that was prepared for his funeral at First Congregational Church on March 11, 1992.