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William Terry Couch (1901-1989) began his four-decade publishing career building the University of North Carolina Press into one of the nation's leading university presses. His editorial attacks on the social ills of the South earned him a reputation as a southern liberal. By the 1940s, his disaffection with New Deal politics turned him toward the right, resulting in his firing as director of University of Chicago Press in 1950. As a conservative, Couch sought books and articles that would sway general readers from what he saw as an intellectual torpor that accepted the growing role of government in American life. The liberals who controlled the presses found him dogmatic and irascible. When he tried to turn Collier's Encyclopedia into a journal of conservative opinion, he was fired as editor in chief in 1959. He ended his career as publisher for the libertarian William Volker Fund, which collapsed in the 1960s under charges of Nazism. Couch was committed to publishing as a social cause and strove to disturb American complacency. This first book-length biography of Couch covers the career of a publisher who brought academic scholarship to the reading public to effect social, political and ecomic change.
Orvin Lee Shiflett is professor and chair of the Department of Library and Information Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA.