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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Remembering Waterman’s most famous newsman

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Tuesday April 14, 2015

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear every other Tuesday.

Waterman’s famous native son would have been 100-years-old this year. Clayton Kirkpatrick is still remembered by the older residents in this village and he never forgot his roots.

I came across a plethora of material on his life recently in the archives of the Waterman Area Heritage Society. It reminded me of the two occasions I was privileged to meet him during my lifetime. The first was when he delivered a talk at the reunion of fellow Waterman High alumni at the Homes Student Center on the NIU campus, then again in 1972 when I wrote asking him if there were any job openings on the Chicago Tribune and he invited me in for an interview. We had a pleasant conversation about our parents who were both natives of Waterman, then he turned me over to a staffer to be interviewed.

Kirk, as he was affectionally known, the same nickname his father used, was born in Waterman Jan. 8, 1915, the son of Clayton (different middle name) and Mabel Kirkpatrick. He died in 2014 at age 89 and is buried in the family plot at North Clinton Cemetery near Waterman.

His father owned an auto repair garage and machine shop but the son wasn’t interested in following in those footsteps. In an interview with the

The Kirkpatricks pose for a family photo in their early days of child-rearing. From left, oldest son Bruce, Clayton Kirkpatrick, James on his lap, Thelma, youngest daughter Eileen, and eldest Pam. (Family provided photo)

The Kirkpatrick family monument in the North Clinton Cemetery near Waterman.
(Schrader photo)

local weekly Waterman Enquirer in 1972, Kirk reminisced about his school days and how he was a player on the Waterman Wolverines basketball team when the legendary coach Ernie Eveland was there.

Kirk even recalled specific classmates he played alongside—Dick Maple, Don Ferguson, Bill Randles, Rupert Miller, John Swanson and Duane Swanson, to name a few.

I was surprised to learn from the article that during high school he worked on the Harry Kirk farm, two miles south of town, the very same dairy farm where I was born a few years later in 1940. He left to attend the University of Illinois in 1933, graduating Phi Beta Kappa three and a half years later. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and saw action in World War II that earned him a Bronze Start and final rank of master sergeant.

During that period he married Thelma DeMott from Chicago and they had four children—Pamela, Bruce, Eileen, and James. All four are still living, and I talked with three of them by phone recently.

They told me how modest their father was throughout his career, even about his golf game, which was pretty good. He was named editor of the Tribune in 1969, then elevated to president and chief executive officer of the paper in 1979.

When he took the helm of the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” as it had been billed in the front page flag by the outspoken and very conservative former publisher Col. Robert R. McCormick, he made sweeping editorial and design changes that helped the paper maintain its dominance in the Midwest market. He gained national prominence and the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike when he wrote the editorial calling for President Nixon to resign, despite the paper being an earlier supporter of the President and a longtime Republican bastion in the then Democrat-leaning city and county.

Kirk explained later that after he read, and the paper then published, the entire transcript of the Nixon Watergate tapes, he was shocked at the way Nixon talked and behaved, and felt that Nixon had to go.
The White House was understandably in shock and insiders exclaimed that “If Nixon had lost the Trib, he had lost the nation.”

I believe that the mild-mannered and very talented Waterman native will go down in the annals of American journalism as one of the great editors of the 20th Century and Waterman can be proud of its native son.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115