Jack Wilkinson, a veteran journalist who covered everything from plane hijackings to golf tournaments and whose career placed him in Atlanta for the last 40 years, died Wednesday (4-3). He was 84.
Wilkinson, a long-time resident of Atlanta's Morningside neighborhood, died in Piedmont Hospital of lung and heart failure, his family said. He had been admitted on March 19.
A lover of old films and an accomplished caricaturist, Wilkinson worked for more than 50 years for United Press International, in bureaus across the nation and in the fields of news and sports. He retired in 2005 but continued to do freelance work for the news agency. He filed his last piece the day before he entered hospital.
Wilkinson died on the 58th anniversary of his marriage to the former Beverly Busby. He is survived by her; by daughters Tracy Wilkinson, a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times based currently in Mexico City, and Kelly Wilkinson, a photojournalist for the Indianapolis Star; and three granddaughters, Lily, Willow and Camille.
Jack Edward Wilkinson, born in the year of the great crash, 1929, and who grew up in the Fort Worth-Dallas area of Texas, caught the journalism bug while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He spent his stint at naval headquarters in San Diego, Calif., writing and editing the navy newspaper.
With his military duty over, rather than return to university, Wilkinson accepted a reporting job at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. There his career was launched _ and he met his future wife.
In 1955, Wilkinson was hired by United Press International, then a dominant news wire service. He was soon and over the years transferred to Denver, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Oklahoma City, Okla., and New York City headquarters, where he became a national sports editor. In 1969, he loaded up his station wagon with a wife, two daughters, a cat and a cage of gerbils, and moved to Atlanta, where he held various positions at UPI.
He covered a state governor named Jimmy Carter and a young golfer named Jack Nicklaus. He nurtured many up-and-coming Unipressers and, in his spare time, drew acerbic cartoons, some of which were printed in national publications.
A Memorial will be held Friday, April 5, 2013 at 2 O'clock Haygood Memorial United Methodist Church, 975 E. Rock Springs Rd., Atlanta, GA 30306, 404-872-9613. Family will receive friends 1 hour prior to the service and a reception will be held following the service at the church. Online condolences may be made at www.hmpattersonspringhill.com.