Chuck Francis died on Wednesday.
What you won’t read in his obit, which reviews his happy career as a speechwriter and general communicommando at IBM for 30 years and his later development of IdeaBank, a speechwriting research database eventually bought by Vital Speeches‘ publisher McMurry—is that he was pretty much the most genial guy anybody ever met in this business, to its rookies and its veterans alike.
I remember being 24 years old, trying to hold myself together at a Ragan Speechwriter’s Conference cocktail party I was helping to host. Surrounded and totally intimidated by White House and Fortune 500 speechwriters, I stood there gripping my gin and hoping to strike up a conversation with somebody. When Chuck and his wife walked in, my problem was solved. Chuck was a long-term guy, interested in sharing ideas with anyone who was interested in hearing them. A true communicator’s spirit.
As for the veterans, longtime corporate scribe Fletcher Dean remembers going to Chuck for advice on a session he was hoping to present at another Speechwriter’s Conference: “I had the idea to deliver a speech on ‘the seven sins of speechwriting.’ Chuck delivered and I remember his wisdom well said a decade later: ‘The number one sin of speechwriting is writing a speech the audience won’t listen to,’ he said. ‘Then repeat that six more times.’ Good words, well said.”
Good guy, too.
Godspeed, Chuck Francis.