One Year Anniversary of Book Release

Today is the one year anniversary of The Essential Ed Koterba release date. I have gained many new friends over the past year and am thankful for their support. I want to take this opportunity to thank them and all the other readers for their encouraging words.

Here is just a sampling of comments from readers:

“There is a longing, as well as mourning, for the sort of journalism that existed in days past. . . . [It was a time when] syndicated columnists were the only reason a great many people bought newspapers. One of those superstar columnists was Ed Koterba, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Washington Times-Herald and Washington Post reporter.” (Mary Stanik, Phoenix, Arizona)

“Koterba’s writings hold up extraordinarily well [in the twenty-first century], with insights into important political and public figures of the era as well as compelling snapshots of life in the US in the 1950s.” (Gerry Lonosga, Indiana University’s Media School)

“This compilation of the famous newspaperman’s columns, annotated by his son, is an engaging read which will take you back to the Cold War era, . . . show you firsthand the workings of Washington, D.C. during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and give you keen insight into the adventures (and amusing misadventures) of one American family. . . . Koterba’s folksy style and astute observations of his fellow man combined with his son’s reflections on his father’s life and career make this volume a must read.” (Todd Dorsett, Waynesboro, PA)

“Seeing important historical developments through the intuitive, nice-guy, apolitical lens of Ed Koterba is refreshing — an intriguing alternative to the typical historical accounts.” (Ann Warner, Romney, WV)

“It is really hard putting this great collection of stories down. [Koterba’s] attention to detail, his craftsmanship with the English language, his love of the “average Joe” — it would be tough to say which was Koterba’s greatest gift. But thankfully he shared those gifts for many years through his newspaper column.” (Steve Bailes, Capon Bridge, WV)

“Awhile ago I sat down with [this book] to read for about 10 minutes. I was astonished that it turned into an hour and a half. I was thrilled, delighted, often laughing out loud. This is spectacular reading! It’s enlightening, historic, and amusing. This is a book [about the 1950s], yet it is timeless. . . . It recalls for me many important events, and brings back names of worldwide leaders of earlier times.” (Paul Chalfant, Shepherdstown, WV)

“This book meets all three of my criteria for a great read: I laughed; I cried; I learned something.” (Beth Zeilor, Romney, WV)

“The Essential Ed Koterba was a joy to read. The book made me laugh, smile, reflect and choke up. Each day I looked forward to another column and was never disappointed. Thank you Ed Koterba Morgret for bringing your precious father back to life and sharing him with us via this collection so sensitively put together.” (Elsie Ferrara, Stamford, CT)

“[The Essential Ed Koterba] is a delightful mixture of nostalgia, humor and pathos.” (Sanford Kluger, Englewood Cliffs, NJ)

From now until August 15, there is a 25% Anniversary Special Discount for the purchase of the hardcover version of The Essential Ed Koterba. To take advantage of this offer, select “Buy the Book” from the menu bar, then click “Buy the Book from the Author”. Next to the hardcover version, click “Add to Cart.” In the Promo Code box, type 102 and click on “Apply Promo.” Then simply follow the directions on the screen.

Newspaperman Ed Koterba was NOT the “enemy of the people”

Mary Stanik, reviewer of the book, The Essential Ed Koterba, recently posted the following:

In a time when journalists are criticized for their work, it might be just the right time to read the story of a journalist who lost his life while in the service of journalism. Ed Koterba was a famed Washington correspondent who was lauded by President Kennedy the day after his June 1961 death. Koterba's son, Ed Morgret (Ed Koterba Morgret), has compiled an extensive collection of his father's columns. This book should be read by all who want to see what journalists do and why they do it. I was honored to be asked to review The Essential Ed Koterba.

My father, Ed Koterba, was a beloved journalist during the 1950s and early 1960s who had a following of over a million readers a day. He also served as a White House correspondent under the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations (up until his death in 1961). I believe he epitomized journalistic integrity of that time period. In his role as a non-partisan Government watchdog for the American people, he was hard-hitting but fair. His columns earned him respect across the political spectrum, as evidenced by multiple pages in the Congressional Record devoted to tributes to him from both Republican and Democrat senators and congressmen. President Kennedy referred to Ed Koterba as “a most outstanding newspaperman.” I, too, am longing for those days when a free press was considered a necessary component of a free democratic society rather than the “enemy of the people.”

The Khrushchev-Castro Hug

This AP photo of Khrushchev belly-hugging Castro on 9/20/1960 was reprinted today in newspapers around the world following Castro’s death. My father, Ed Koterba, was a Scripps-Howard reporter who covered the 1960 UN General Assembly in New York City. His description of that hug may be the most detailed account ever reported. His column appeared the next day. Following is a reprint of that article, also included in “The Essential Ed Koterba” (pages 411-12).

Hammy, but Effective (September 21, 1960)
(The reader is also referred to the articles on Fidel Castro in this chapter.)
NEW YORK—It looked ludicrous from this perch—the way Nikita Khrushchev belly-hugged Fidel Castro, and the pirouetting duet that followed on the floor of the assembly hall. The clammy chill that slipped up my spine came not from the cold draft of this aerial booth. It came from the realization that the frightful hands across the sea had, indeed, been fused in the flesh for the whole world to see. Until this very moment—this instant of infamy—the ominous love affair between Khrushchev and Castro was still a thing of distance and vagueness. No longer. The Soviet premier planned this UN drama with the precision that comes only from intuition. Hammy, yes. But effective.

For thirty-five minutes, as delegates poured onto the arena, Khrushchev marked time at his aisle seat, the ninth row back, the far-left section. Then, just moments before the fifteenth session of the General Assembly was gaveled to order—when the hall was good and full, and television cameras now hot—he rose. A Cuban accompanied him, and he bobbed briskly the one hundred paces to the front of the hall, up the stairs carpeted in velvet green, out behind the podium, and then directly to Castro, in the far-right front row of the vast hall, directly below me. In his wake, herds of photographers almost leaped over each other in a frenzy to be there first. They knew where he was headed.

The Kremlinite pulled the hairy, towering Cuban toward him, then turned him—to make sure all the cameramen in this frenzied arc got a clean shot of their embrace. Khrushchev seemed to be saying, haughtily—“If anyone had doubt about the Moscow-Havana axis before, you won’t have it now.” No question about it, this illicit love affair is now official.

Premier Castro, though, was nervous in the minutes preceding this display. Extremely nervous. After his entrance to the hall, six minutes behind Khrushchev, Castro was unable to control his tenseness. First he tumbled a Cuban box of wax matches, over and over and over. Then he picked up a long yellow pencil, twirled it, rolled it on the green baize of his desk. As if aware that his nervousness was betraying him, Castro tried to hide it. Finally, he slipped his hands under the table, but I could see him tensely crossing and uncrossing his forefingers.

As one witnessed this “spontaneous” expression of togetherness, there remained no doubt that this dictator duo had set the UN one for the weeks to come.

What Others Are Saying About “The Essential Ed Koterba”

“There is a longing, as well as mourning, for the sort of journalism that existed in days past. . . . [It was a time when] syndicated columnists were the only reason a great many people bought newspapers. One of those superstar columnists was Ed Koterba, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Washington Times-Herald and Washington Post reporter.” (Mary Stanik, Phoenix, Arizona)

“Koterba’s writings hold up extraordinarily well [in the twenty-first century], with insights into important political and public figures of the era as well as compelling snapshots of life in the US in the 1950s.” (Gerry Lanosga, assistant professor at Indiana University’s Media School)

“Seeing important historical developments through the intuitive, nice-guy, apolitical lens of Ed Koterba is refreshing–an intriguing alternative to the typical historical accounts.” (Ann Warner, Romney, WV)

“It is really hard putting this great collection of stories down. [Koterba’s] attention to detail, his craftsmanship with the English language, his love of the “average Joe”–it would be tough to say which was Koterba’s greatest gift. But thankfully he shared those gifts for many years through his newspaper column.” (Steve Bailes, Capon Bridge, WV)

“Awhile ago I sat down with [this book] to read for about 10 minutes. I was astonished that it turned into an hour and a half. I was thrilled, delighted, often laughing out loud. This is spectacular reading! It’s enlightening, historic, and amusing. This is a book [about the 1950s], yet it’s timeless. . . . It recalls for me many important events, and brings back names of worldwide leaders of earlier times.” (Paul Chalfant, Shepherdstown, WV)

“This book meets all three of my criteria for a great read: I laughed; I cried; I learned something.” (Beth Zeilor, Romney, WV)

President Kennedy Eulogizes Ed Koterba

Exactly fifty-five years ago today—June 28, 1961—President John F. Kennedy opened up his live news conference by eulogizing my father, Ed Koterba. In that eulogy, he referred to Koterba as “a most outstanding newspaperman.” The quote is the subtitle of the book The Essential Ed Koterba to be released July 15.

Koterba on Koterba: Ed Koterba describes his own journalistic writing

In my last blog, I used the words of people who knew Ed Koterba to describe his subject matter and writing style. But what did Ed Koterba have to say about his own writing? Below is my father’s response to a query from an Ohio man who wanted to know what there was to write about in Washington other than politics:

This question capsuled the apparent misunderstanding of most outsiders who consider Washington merely as a city encased in a cold hard shell of politics and government. Those who have the opportunity to peek under this impersonal, heavy crust of political manifestations, find to their amazement an “oddly average” touch of humanness. They find this great federal city of famous names throbbing with the same everyday drama found in the little crossroads village of Podunk Valley, Ohio.

There was a time when we, too, were set agog by the aura of untouchableness that came with the mention of a big name out of Washington. If he was a national figure in politics, he must be somebody of another world. Something about him (or her) set him aside as purely different. He was Washington, and Washington therefore was politics. It was with amusement and enlightenment, not disillusionment, that we gradually learned to see the informal, average side of Washington life—that which we like to write about . . . . Washington isn’t all politics. It’s just as human as that little village out in Ohio.

On a few other occasions, my father took the liberty of analyzing his own writing style. In a speech to the Shippensburg, Pennsylvania News Chronicle staff at their annual Christmas party in 1955, he told his newspaper friends that “I write like I talk—just plain, and perhaps not too intelligently—but I figure if I get a story or message across, the battle is won.” In a 1955 interview with Editor and Publisher, my father believed that his success as a writer came because of his simple style. “I try to write,” he said, “as if I’m talking to my reader across the backyard fence.” In a later 1960 interview with Editor and Publisher, he again reflected on his reporting style—a style that he said reports the lighter side of national events, yet still has news reporting as the core. In commenting about what editors are looking for in their papers, my father said, “Editors like meat and potatoes with their honey and spice. If my column can be humorous, that’s the first priority. But if it doesn’t have some enlightening bit of news, it doesn’t get across.”

The content and style of Ed Koterba’ writing truly set him apart from other journalists of his era, and hopefully will provide inspiration to current and future journalists. The book The Essential Ed Koterba contains 363 of his articles. Readers will soon discover why Ed Koterba was one of our nation’s most beloved journalists of the 1950s.

What kind of writer was Ed Koterba?

I have been asked frequently by those curious about my book project about what kind of a writer my dad was. So, was he a political columnist? A satirist? Were his columns lighthearted? Or serious? Did he cover major news stories? Or did he write about the small, ordinary things of life? To the disappointment of these curiosity seekers, my answer to all these questions has generally been, “Sometimes.” His content was broad, covering everything from his adventurous travels around the world, to major political figures, to a breaking news event, or to a neighborhood barbecue. His style of writing was likewise varied, sometimes serious (as his alarm over the build-up of nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1961) and sometimes whimsical (as his fictionalized story of a congressman who decided to make his congressional junket on horseback, naming 64 congressmen in a four-hundred word column).

But rather than attempting in my own words to describe the content and style of my father’s writing, I think it would be more prudent to use the words of the politicians and colleagues who knew him best. The following comments were written in the days and months following my father’s death (June and July of 1961):

• “Ed Koterba was a newspaperman who could write with a sharp pen, a broad pen, or a pen in between. He could be biting; he could be considerate; but he was always fair in what he had to say.”
—Senator Mike Mansfield (Democratic Senator from Montana)

• “I considered him one of the fairest and most even-minded journalists covering the Capitol.”
—Senator Kenneth Keating (Republican Senator from New York)

• “The wit, good sense, kindness, and honesty of Ed Koterba will be sorely missed.”
—Representative Abraham Multer (Democratic Representative from New York)

• “Ed had a brilliant future as a newspaperman and his humor, perception, and ability to write a human interest story with a light touch will be greatly missed . . . The world needs people like Ed. It is sad to lose them in their prime.”
—Representative Carroll Kearns (Republican Representative from Pennsylvania)

• “Ed was a good newspaperman, full of energy and joy and curiosity. Everything interested him, especially the people he observed in Washington political life, their strengths and weaknesses and triumphs and defeats, and while he could be sympathetic with their failings, he was quick to anger at injustice, cruelty, stupidity, and waste.”
—Washington Daily News (Washington, DC) editorial staff

• “Ed, a lover of adventure, was able to make his readers feel that they were at his side as he went from place to place in strange corners of the world. He belonged to the school of Ernie Pyle. To him there was a story in every person he met from government official to peasant. . . . The skill of Ed Koterba is one that few news writers possess. Its genius lay in his own zest for living. To him the world was full of things and people to write about. In his death, American journalism loses one of its stars.”
—The Valley Daily News (Tarentum, PA) editorial staff

• “To all his writing, Ed brought a keen eye, a sound sense of humor and an understanding all too rare in this day. The intricacies of Washington, where he had been stationed for the past 10 years, proved only a minor obstacle in his determination to get the story. Through it all he remained essentially the man who once edited a small town Pennsylvania newspaper.”
—The Herald (Sharon, PA) editorial staff

• “Ed found stories in strange places—in Capitol elevators, in a recipe for potato soup, in an old prospector out West and by flying into the eye of a storm. He wrote occasionally about his own family, to the delight of his readers. There can be no doubt that he emulated the late, great Ernie Pyle. It was apparent in his writing style and in his choice of subjects. Ed, like Pyle, preferred to write about the ‘little people.’ Like Pyle, too, he had little use for big words. He wrote simply but with great feeling. He mingled easily with people in all walks of life, and through his work enjoyed intimate friendships with some of the nation’s greats. Once last fall, vice presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson invited Ed to hop aboard the Texan’s private plane for a trip from Washington to Indianapolis—on 20 minutes’ notice!”
—Carl Davidson, Managing Editor of The Hammond Times (Hammond, IN)

• “His specialty was the unusual angle. Sometimes humorous, sometimes deadly serious, his approach was fresh and down-to-earth. You might call it the human side of the news, something the average man or woman out in Evansville, IN would understand and appreciate. He could do this because he liked people and he loved life. He was friendly and sympathetic, but he could be shocked and indignant when he discovered waste or greed or corruption, or felt that an innocent person was being unfairly kicked around.”
—Gordon Hanna, Editor of The Evansville Press (Evansville, IN)

• “Abounding in energy, Ed was never too tired to recognize a story when he saw it and to write it, whether he had been up nights without sleep at a political convention, or whether he had been trouping tirelessly in off-beat, strange places. When he sat down at a typewriter, he was completely oblivious of himself, his emotions, or his physical person. He was merely the vehicle from which the story was launched. . . . A human being, to Ed Koterba, was terrifically important as a person. It didn’t matter whether he had Fort Knox in his bank account, or whether he was president of the United States, or Queen Elizabeth II of England, or our waiter at the press table. What mattered was that he or she was human, and Ed wanted to find out what made that human tick. What he or she thought, and why, and what they did about it.”
—Frances McKusick, Washington correspondent for The Sentinel (Rome, NY)

• “His sharp instinct for ‘digging out’ the facts, combined with his uncanny ability to choose the right words to exactly convey his meaning won his wide acclaim. Noted for his exposés of Washington scene finagling, his most cherished ability was the ease with which he reached all readers, his easy style of writing that labeled him as ‘your next door neighbor’ type columnist.”
—Oelwein Daily Register (Oelwein, IA) editorial staff

• “Mr. Koterba displayed a keen interest in people, frequently portraying nobly the fight being waged by obscure individuals on behalf of American causes. At other times, he sketched skillfully the interesting and ordinary things of life. Some of his columns were devoted to the color of Washington press conferences, hearings or something as simple as inconsiderate visitors defacing the Capitol Building. Few columnists achieve the clarity of writing style that was his. Fewer exhibit his breadth of interests. And threaded into his writings was an obvious love of America and its basic principles.”
—Harvey A. Call, Editor of the Sun Sentinel (Pompano Beach, FL)

Mary Stanik, communications consultant and author of Life Erupted, reviews The Essential Ed Koterba

For many who still enjoy reading a daily newspaper in paper format, there is often a longing, as well as a mourning, for the sort of journalism that existed in days not all that very long past.

That journalism prospered in towns and cities with not just one daily paper, but usually at least two. And columnists who were syndicated in hundreds and even thousands of papers were often the only reason a great many people bought newspapers.

One of those superstar columnists was Ed Koterba, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Washington Times-Herald and Washington Post reporter. He had been a Washington, D.C. columnist for the Scripps-Howard chain for two years before his death at age 42 in a plane crash off the coast of La Push, Washington. On June 28, 1961 (the day after the crash), President John F. Kennedy opened his news conference with a touching tribute to Koterba, who had a then nine-year-old son now named Ed Koterba Morgret (Morgret had been adopted by his stepfather a few years after Koterba’s death). Morgret, a retired school psychologist, has compiled a large collection of the hordes and scads of columns his father wrote during a newspaper career spanning 15 years, a career in which the elder Koterba moved from a small paper in Pennsylvania to the peaks of the world’s mightiest power centers.

The collection, called The Essential Ed Koterba (MCP Books; 614 pages, $39.95) is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the overwhelming sense of loss one gathers from Morgret’s often tremendously poignant chapter introductions and transitions. The book also is to be commended for its rich array of the extraordinarily wide scope of subject matter. Koterba’s topics ranged from cross-continent trips he and his family took in an Airstream trailer to serious, reasoned denunciations of segregation. The articles he wrote that were highly critical of Joe McCarthy’s Communist chasing probably were not popular with all of his otherwise devoted readers. Koterba interviewed and/or wrote about just about anybody who was anybody or would be anybody, including (but by no means whatsoever limited to):  Nikita Khruschev; Bob Hope; Dwight Eisenhower; Lyndon Johnson; Richard Nixon; Dick Clark; Billy Graham; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Shirley Temple Black; and, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who at age six already showed interest in environmental issues.

Koterba’s mastery of the sublime, the silly and the deadly serious is evident in almost every one of the columns included in the book. Those who remain mesmerized by the Kennedys (full disclosure: this reviewer is one such person) will be delighted to see so much Kennedy content in Koterba’s stories. In a December 30, 1960 column, Koterba described the mayhem that ensued when he and his wife were invited to a swank reception at the Palm Beach residence of then President-Elect Kennedy. Mrs. Koterba had sustained a thumb injury and, not wanting to display such injury to the fashion conscious First Lady-Elect Jacqueline Kennedy, she decided she would wear black gloves to the reception. But no black gloves were available, so the Koterbas dyed some white ones.  “So, when most people were roasting turkeys, I was standing over a hot stove boiling gloves.” Koterba wrote. “The result was most commendable.”

A number of Koterba’s writings resonate over the vastness of the decades to our own time. A particularly powerful May 1961 column concerned Fidel Castro’s rule over the people of Cuba, yet references the war that would consume American politics and morals for the next 15 years. Koterba wrote that “isn’t it ironic that we are considering ‘invading’ South Vietnam, exactly halfway around the world, yet refuse to clean up a vicious new Hitler at our very doorstep? I never dreamed the day would come when the Kremlin would be shoving us around from an island 90 miles off our coast. And all we do is talk and talk and talk. We’ve got to do something courageous while there’s still a fighting chance. I’m ready enough to sacrifice my life. Aren’t you?”

One especially touching column concerned America’s thirst for knowledge of space and plans for a moon landing. It ran on July 6, 1959, less than two years before Koterba was killed and almost exactly ten years before Americans did land on the moon. “I just can’t stand to think of not being around when they send the first man to the moon,” he wrote. “That should be within ten years.” He ended the column by writing “if I do live that long, I will have but one final request – to have the opportunity to be among the first reporters to interview the man when he returns. Now, that isn’t too unreasonable, is it?” Sadly, it was unreasonable.

During Koterba’s ascent into the columnist stratosphere, he was often considered a successor to Ernie Pyle, the World War II correspondent known and lauded for his humorous yet respectfully “down home” ways of telling the war’s all too human stories. Current students of column writing and journalism history who read Koterba’s writings will probably see his influence in the work of writers such as the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt, syndicated columnist and author Dave Barry, and the late Toronto Star columnist Gary Lautens. One person who was definitely influenced by Koterba’s style was his nephew, Jeffrey Koterba, who was born the year Ed Koterba died and is now the nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World Herald.

In his tribute to Koterba, President Kennedy called him a “most outstanding newspaperman.” Those who read this collection will undoubtedly think the same. And many of those readers will wish for a return to the sort of journalism a “most outstanding newspaperman” such as Ed Koterba was able to practice.

— Mary Stanik, communications consultant; author of the novel, Life Erupted; and regular opinions contributor to MinnPost and other publications

Ed Koterba — A Short Biography

The subtitle of The Essential Ed Koterba is “A Most Outstanding Newspaperman.” The quote is from President John F. Kennedy’s eulogy on June 28, 1961 (play above link). Ed Koterba was one of the few White House Correspondents who had attended every single one of Kennedy’s live news conferences for the first five months of the Kennedy Administration. He also had covered Kennedy for a number of years prior to that, first as a junior senator from Massachusetts, then as presidential nominee, and then as president-elect. Prior to Kennedy’s inauguration, Ed Koterba was invited to the Kennedy mansion in Palm Beach, Florida for a reception hosted by Joe and Rose Kennedy to meet the entire Kennedy clan, including, of course, President-Elect Kennedy and his wife, first lady in waiting, Jacqueline. Incidentally, Ed Koterba worked with Jacqueline in 1953 before she began dating John. Ed was a reporter for the Washington Times-Herald, while Jacqueline had the job of “Inquiring Camera Girl” for the same paper.

So the Kennedys knew my father well, and despite some of my father’s columns critical of Kennedy’s spending plans, there was mutual respect for the president-press relationship, and the words contained in the eulogy were totally sincere. One of my intentions while researching my father’s life and studying his columns was to shed some light on why Kennedy referred to my father as “a most outstanding newspaperman.” But to understand the “outstanding newspaperman” of 1961, one must first appreciate the life-long path that brought him to that pinnacle of success, as his career as a journalist dates back to the early 1930s. Following is a short biography of my father, Ed Koterba.

Edward (Ed) Victor Koterba was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 17, 1919, the son of Frank and Agnes (Semrad) Koterba. His father, Frank, was a railroad inspector and musician who came to America with his wife, Agnes, in 1907 from the South Bohemian region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic or “Czechia”).

Ed Koterba received his early education at South Omaha High School, graduating in 1935. While a student there, he edited the school newspaper and organized his own jazz band. Following his high school graduation, he worked as a copy boy for the Omaha World-Herald. He also travelled with a number of different jazz bands as a saxophonist and clarinetist. He finally gave up traveling with bands to go back to school. He attended the University of Omaha in the spring and fall of 1939. He did not declare a major, as he was torn between music and journalism. His transcript of two semesters was equally divided between journalism and music classes. While at the university, he worked part-time at the Omaha World-Herald, doubling as a reporter and photographer.

Ed dropped out of school after his second semester to join the Union Pacific Railroad as secretary to a traveling engineer (1939–1940), and then briefly worked in Washington, D.C. as a Civil Service stenographer. In 1940 he became a secretary with the War Department in Washington and in 1941–1942 again served as secretary with the Union Pacific Railroad. Drafted as a private in the Army in 1942, he soon ended up in a military intelligence camp. He was commissioned as second lieutenant in 1943 following his graduation from Officer Candidate School in Camp Davis, North Carolina. After being sent to Indiana University in 1945 to study Russian, he served as an interpreter for Army Intelligence, as he spoke both Czech and Russian fluently. He edited a small Army camp magazine while serving at various posts in the United States. While stationed at Fort Richie, Pennsylvania, he met his bride-to-be, Dorothy (“Dotty”) Dell Chalfant.

A year after they were married, Ed completed his active duty with the rank of first lieutenant, but he continued to serve as a reserve officer until the mid-1950s. Upon completing his active duty in 1946, he joined the staff of his father-in-law’s paper in Waynesboro, PA, as reporter, editor, and columnist. His column, entitled “Life in Our County,” was written under the nom de plume Hank Hayseed. During his five-year tenure at the Record Herald, he won twelve awards from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers’ Association.

In January, 1952, Ed and Dotty gave birth to their one and only child (yours truly), Edward Victor Koterba, Jr. Eddie, Jr., as I was affectionately called, was the subject of many of Ed’s family-oriented articles, although sometimes I was referred to, not so affectionately, as “Little Scalawag,” “Little Monster,” or “Little Indian.” Later in that same year, Ed moved his credentials to Washington, D.C. to become a reporter and feature writer with the Washington (D.C.) Times-Herald. While employed with the Times-Herald, Ed began syndicating his own column to his readers at the Record Herald. He at first called his column “Jottings from D.C.,” but in 1953 changed it to “A Bit of Washington.”

In March 1954, the Times-Herald was sold to the Washington Post, and the paper was renamed the Washington Post and Times-Herald. While many staffers from the Times-Herald lost their jobs, Ed was one of the few who were absorbed by the Washington Post. Ed quickly advanced from feature writer to front-page story writer. From August to November of 1954, he began investigating slot machines in Charles County, MD. The front-page articles exposed gambling and election irregularities in Southern Maryland. The series won him first prize in the Washington Post Front Page Awards, as well as the Washington Newspaper Guild’s General News Award. He was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Ed left the Washington Post and Times-Herald in the fall of 1955 to devote full-time attention to the syndication of his column “A Bit of Washington,” which by this time was being distributed to close to one hundred papers nationally. Ed found his niche in writing a non-political column about the common, human lives of major political D.C. personalities. As a Washington correspondent, he devoted the bulk of his writing to the goings-on around Capitol Hill and the White House.  From 1955 to 1959, he was also a frequent contributor to Roll Call—the Newspaper of Capitol Hill.

When not covering the Washington scene, Ed went on cross-country trailering excursions. In 1956, he made a trailer tour of the Midwest, collecting material for his syndicated columns. He signed with Hall Syndicate in 1958 and ventured on a much longer trailer trip across the U.S. with his family.

Hall Syndicate promoted Ed as the “new Ernie Pyle,” and had plans to send him on a number of “On Tour” adventures. Following the 1958 trailer trip, Hall sent him around the world to report on “lonely GI’s in lonely places.” The column was hugely successful, but also emotionally draining.

Ed’s big break came at the beginning of 1959 when he was offered to take over as Scripps-Howard’s Washington columnist following the death of Frederick Othman. His new column, “Assignment Washington,” was distributed by United Feature Syndicate. He quickly re-discovered his niche as a non-political writer in a political arena. He knew his way about in the complicated maze of political, governmental, diplomatic, bureaucratic, military, and ordinary civilian circles that constitute the beehive of the nation’s capital. During Premier Khrushchev’s stay in Washington in 1959, he interviewed the Russian leader without the hampering go-between of an interpreter. He traveled with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1960 presidential campaign and served as a White House correspondent during both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.

Although Ed was considered primarily a Washington D.C. reporter, he still managed to satisfy his itch for travelling. With United Features’ blessings, he found time to escape the nation’s capital to continue his world traveling. Among his jaunts were an undersea trip on a nuclear submarine, an inaugural jet flight to India, a trip to Antarctica, and trips to both the North and South Poles. In 1959, he visited his parents’ homeland of Czechoslovakia (Communist at the time). Being fluent in the language, he was able to communicate freely with ordinary Czech workers and peasants, frequently holding impromptu interviews in the back of cobbler shops or on dark street corners. His Czech articles earned him the T-Hirty Club Award. The T-Hirty Club was established by former Times-Herald staffers after the paper was sold to the Washington Post.

It was one of my father’s traveling assignments that tragically ended his life and career. It was to be a four-day stint to the Pacific Northwest. The purpose of the trip, according to newspaper accounts, was to enjoy a scenic tour of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The trip was paid for by the El Paso Natural Gas Company. My father was invited to join the tour to report on the beauties of the Northwest where most of the company’s clients were located. The plane carrying my father and four others never made it to its final destination of Portland, Oregon. On June 27, 1961, the small twin-engine plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, hit a cable and crashed into the Pacific Ocean near La Push, Washington. The following day, President Kennedy opened his scheduled news conference by eulogizing Ed Koterba.

I began this blog by referring to an excerpt of Kennedy’s eulogy which I have used as the subtitle of this book: “A Most Outstanding Newspaperman.” The biographical information I have provided here, while shedding some light on how his career developed, still does not adequately explain how he came to be an “outstanding newspaperman.” The answer, I believe, lies in his choice of subject matter—he was constantly seeking the unusual angle or perspective—and his unique, often humorous writing style. I will attempt to address the content and style of his writing in my next blog.