Former Herald-News city editor dies at 79
BY BRIAN STANLEY email@example.com October 29, 2013 8:46PM
Updated: December 1, 2013 8:28AM
A former Herald-News city editor who was just 27 when he took over the newsroom and who went on to work for the U.S. government for many years died last week at the age of 79.
Rich Vawter, who most recently was living in Colorado Springs, died Oct. 21.
Mr. Vawter was born in Tulsa, Okla. but was raised in Will County. He ran the Herald-News newsroom for five years in the 1960s.
Mr. Vawter began his career as a sports reporter in 1951 while still a student at Lockport Township High School. He was making $50 a month writing three to five stories each week, but within a couple of years, he was working 60 hours a week writing a bowling column and covering sports for Joliet Junior College, where he also was taking classes, he wrote in a synopsis of his career.
Mr. Vawter’s local reporting was interrupted for four years when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, despite being blind in one eye.
He returned to The Herald-News in 1958 and would serve on the Chicago Headline Club’s Board of Directors.
“A delightful benefit of being a newsman is that one gets a front-row seat at major events and many times gets to meet important people,” Mr. Vawter wrote. “I met Dr. Martin Luther King when he spoke before one of our meetings. And I helped welcome Jack Kennedy to Joliet during his 1960 campaign when he and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley stole the election from Richard Nixon.”
Mr. Vawter kept his political biases hidden enough to be transferred to Washington D.C. in 1967 as a congressional correspondent.
In 1969, he was appointed as director of information at the General Services Administration and worked as a spokesman for the National Archives, Secret Service and presidential libraries.
Mr. Vawter retired from government work in 1996 and moved to Washington state with his wife, Irene, who died in 2009. He moved to Colorado Springs to be with his daughter, Elizabeth, last year.
“I think it was important for him to be remembered in Joliet. He still had a lot of friends and family in Joliet and Lockport,” Elizabeth said Tuesday.
A newsman to the end, Mr. Vawter closed the autobiographical pages he wrote for his descendants with a “30” — traditionally used by reporters at the end of a story to let editors know it was the end.
Mr. Vawter also is survived by two grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Mr. Vawter did not want funeral services held. He is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.