Tags: wes pruden | editor | the washington times | obituary

Remembering The Washington Times Editor Wes Pruden

Wes Pruden's trademark fedora and press passes
Wes Pruden's trademark fedora and press passes from his 50-year career as a newsman displayed at his funeral service (photo courtesy of John Gizzi)

Monday, 29 July 2019 07:25 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Just about every mourner who gathered at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland last Friday had a story about longtime The Washington Times editor Wes Pruden.

In an era when reporters increasingly rely on the Internet for sources, James Wesley "Wes" Pruden, Jr., who died July 17 at age 83, believed in "shoe leather and hard-hitting reporting," current Times editor Chris Dolan the told the crowd of 100-plus family, friends, and fans.

"Wes was a newspaperman — you didn't dare call him a 'journalist,'" said Jones, who wore a seersucker suit such as that which served as a trademark for Pruden along with his signature fedora.

Jones added Pruden's motto was "Get it first and get it right" and admonished reporters: "No weasel words. And even if your mother tell you something, check it out!"

"Journalist was a pretentious word which Wes liked to point out came from the French," said Fran Coombs, Pruden's longtime right-hand man at the Times and now the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.

Along with being a true newspaperman and editor, Pruden was also an editorialist. His brass-knuckled "Pruden on Politics" column — brash and conservative — made for must-reading on the right in the nation's capital and nationwide.

As editor emeritus, Pruden wrote his final column last month on the Squad and its feud with President Donald Trump. True to form, Pruden called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., "dumb to silly to asinine" in dealings with a Republican president "who doesn't play by the rules."

On the editorial page, Pruden was J.J. Hunsecker, the hard-as-knuckles columnist immortalized by Burt Lancaster in "The Sweet Smell of Success." In his copyboy-to-correspondent-to-editor-in-chief career, however, he was more Hildy Johnson, the cocky star reporter in the Broadway hit "The Front Page."

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the teenaged Pruden worked nights as a copyboy for the Arkansas Gazette while attending Little Rock Central High School (the alma mater of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his daughter, former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders) by day.

He had a brief stint at Little Rock Junior College, but his passion was not education — it was always the news business. In 1956, Pruden started as a reporter at the Memphis (Tennessee) Commercial Appeal and covered the civil rights movement and politics throughout the South.

Seven years later, he joined the National Observer and was a Vietnam War correspondent. He later became the Observer's correspondent in Hong Kong, Beirut, and London.

After several years of unsuccessfully trying to get a novel on Vietnam published, Pruden joined the fledging Washington Times as chief political correspondent in 1982. Over the next 26 years, he rose to be editor-in-chief, retired in 2008, and returned to write his twice-a-week column — right up until the day he died.

Pruden, wrote Gov. Huckabee, "Had ink instead of blood in his veins."

In recalling Pruden's career, friends and colleagues recalled a "fun" side of the newspaperman that was little known. His passion for history of the Civil War, his love for the children of friends who became "honorary nieces and nephews," and his mischievous sense of humor all came to life at his funeral service.

On the day Bill Clinton was sworn in as president, Pruden insisted the Times run a headline simply reading "Ooooh — Pig Souey!" — the cry of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team both Clinton and Pruden rooted for. Several readers were scandalized but, by all accounts, Clinton loved it.

It was also recalled, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in the U.S. in the 1980s, Pruden was in a receiving line to meet her at the British Embassy. Voicing his admiration for the "Iron Lady," he urged her to move to the U.S. and seek office here when her tenure in London was done.

"I'll talk to members of Congress about changing the law so you can run for president," Pruden told her.

A year later, on a return visit to Washington and in another receiving line at the embassy, Thatcher spotted Pruden in line. With a straight face, she asked him: "How are you coming on changing that law?"

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Longtime The Washington Times editor Wes Pruden was fondly remembered by Newsmax's John Gizzi and others.
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Monday, 29 July 2019 07:25 AM
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