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W. Scott Nobles of St. Paul, a former college debating champion, taught his forensic skills to the Macalester College debate teams, guiding them to two national championships.

Nobles, who served as chairman of the Speech Department from 1980 to 1991 and who served twice as president of the faculty, 1981-82 and 1989-90, died Dec. 24 in St. Paul of complications from strokes.

He was 85.

"He was a master of his subject, including speech and elocution, as well as argumentation and debate," said John Davis of White Bear Lake, former president of Macalester College in St. Paul.

As a leader, "he represented the good sense of the faculty," said Davis. "He was a good communicator."

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Nobles, a Texas native, earned his B.A. from Southeastern Oklahoma State College in 1947, the same year he and a debate partner won the national collegiate debate tournament.

After earning his master's degree, he served in the military again during the Korean War.

Nobles served as an assistant professor at Louisiana College in Pineville until 1955, the year he received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

In the 1960s, Nobles interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a grant to study black rhetoric.

After teaching at the University of Oregon in Eugene, he joined Macalester as a professor of speech communication and the director of forensics in 1969.

Richard Lesicko, Macalester's debate coach and director of forensics, said Nobles had "an amazing understanding of how persuasion worked."

"He had a very deep understanding of how you go about changing people's minds," said Lesicko, a former student of Nobles'.

"He worked the heck out of us," said Lesicko, but "was generous with his time for his students."

Nobles coached high school debate coaches and held summer workshops at Macalester.

Lesicko said he was competitive but said Nobles didn't think the term coach was the best moniker, instead preferring the term teacher.

"To him, it was really about how much you learned," said Lesicko.

He led several professional organizations and, among his honors, a national forensic association named Nobles "Outstanding National Debate Teacher/Coach" of the 1960s.

In 1992, the Cross Examination Debate Association named him grand master of debate, and in 2001 he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame for his longtime support of high school debate.

Nobles retired from Macalester in 1993 but continued to teach one course a year there through 1997, while also serving as a part-time consultant for a law firm and working for the media as a political analyst.

He is survived by his wife, Judy, and three adult children.

No public services will be held.