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Dick Kay

Thursday, May 13, 2021

* Maureen O’Donnell at the Sun-Times

Dick Kay, a no-nonsense, incisive inquisitor who had one of the longest political reporting careers in Chicago, died early Thursday at 84, according to his son Steven Snodgrass.

Mr. Kay had a stentorian voice that sliced through the noise at crime scenes and news conferences like a bass baritone in an opera. It seemed to command answers from politicians and public relations people who might have preferred to slink away from a mic.

Mr. Kay, who lived in St. Charles and had taken ill earlier this week, worked 38 years for WMAQ-Channel 5, covering countless political conventions, indictments, court trials, aldermen, mayors, governors, senators and presidents. He was hired there as a writer in 1968. Within months, he was covering one of the most tumultuous political stories of the century.

“They sent me out on the street, a green kid. The Democratic Convention, in the middle of it! I was stunned,” he once said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

He began appearing on air two years later, rising to the post of political editor. He also hosted the show “City Desk” and wrote commentaries for the station. […]

He grew up in New Dellrose, Tennessee, a self-described “country boy” who was born in a log cabin. He was just 3 when his sharecropper-father died. His mother worked as a seamstress or cook all her life, he said in the Sun-Times interview. At 14, he dropped out of school so he could make money digging ditches, picking cotton and washing dishes.

Dick Kay was a giant of Chicago TV news back in the days when all the city’s stations strove for excellence.
He was a gruff, hard-hitting and unsparing reporter and won a coveted Peabody Award in 1984

With extraordinary zeal and completeness, WMAQ-TV reporter Dick Kay and his associates set out to investigate reports of financial waste and corruption in the Illinois State Legislature. The result was Political Parasites, a series of reports on “dead-wood” committees and meaningless commissions that were costing the taxpayers of Illinois millions of dollars. Through effective interviews backed by documented evidence, WMAQ-TV was able to provide extensive proof of duplication, waste, and nepotism in these committees. The result was the swift passage of legislation eliminating the Political Parasites, along with substantial savings of public funds. For an exceptionally well-done investigative report, a Peabody Award to WMAQ-TV for Political Parasites.

* He could also be a sweet and kind man. I introduced myself to him many years ago by telling him I’d been watching his work since I was a little kid. That was the beginning of a friendship that lasted years. It was one of the highlights of my life knowing that he respected my work. He even commented on the blog.

I disagreed with his post-retirement decision to work temporarily for the Blagojevich administration, but he was excited to promote the governor’s health care proposals. And he really let his freak flag fly on his WCPT show.

But, as a reporter and an inquisitor, I’d be hard-pressed to name anybody better than Dick.

* Related…

* ‘That ain’t bad for a country boy from the wrong log cabin’ – Remembering Dick Kay

* Longtime Chicago political reporter Dick Kay dies at 84

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Linus - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:10 pm:

    Watching him on TV, I used to think Dick Kay came off as a pompous such-and-such. Then I had occasion to meet him a few times, and he could not have been more gracious and helpful. I changed my tune, and felt ashamed for my premature judgment.

    May Dick rest in peace.

  2. - Proud Sucker - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:14 pm:

    Rest in Peace Dougie.

  3. - levivotedforjudy - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:19 pm:

    I remember how Gov. press spokespeople would try to avoid calling on him in press conferences. A good sign that you are doing a good job. I can still see the scowl George Ryan would give him. RIP Mr. Kay.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:19 pm:

    I remember that red Cadillac he had with the vanity plate, he made his presence felt, he was a giant in the industry and you knew he wasn’t pulling punches.


    My sincere condolences to his many friends and family.

  5. - n-t-c - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:31 pm:

    ===Watching him on TV, I used to think Dick Kay came off as a pompous such-and-such=== by Linus at 3:30 PM

    I felt the same of Kay’s work on WMAQ-TV, where I thought the conclusions he drew were not supported by the facts he actually reported. But I grew to admire him from his radio show on WCPT, where his intelligence and decency was clearly displayed.

  6. - Someone you Should Know - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:31 pm:

    Teresa Barrett is waiting for him at Check in, so they can plan their next radio show in the sky :)

  7. - Practical Politics - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:51 pm:

    I don’t know when he moved further west, but I saw him shopping at the former Sears store in Golf Mill. The last time that I saw him was at a book signing event for his former WMAQ Channel 5 colleague, Jim Ruddle.

  8. - Steve Brown - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:54 pm:

    Dougie had the best bluster of that era of TV newsies and certain skill that could allow him to play good cop/bad cop as a one man show in a single interview.
    Prayers for strength and comfort for his family in these sad times

  9. - walker - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:54 pm:

    Oh no.

    He never stopped fighting for truth and humanity.

  10. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 3:57 pm:

    He was a very good and fair journalist

    Bigger then life

  11. - Boone's is Back - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 4:05 pm:

    Sad news. He was a legend.

  12. - thisjustinagain - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 4:49 pm:

    Thank You, Mr. Kay, for your insights and commentary over these many years. I grew up in the 1970’s, and know that it was journalists like you that did real journalism. Rest in peace.

  13. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 4:50 pm:

    I remember his TV days. Didn’t know he was a progressive until around 10 years ago, and that he was a union steward until today. Met him once, he was cool. Rest in power.

  14. - JS Mill - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 4:52 pm:

    I am so sad to see him go, he was from that era in Chicago when being a journalist came with high standards and was about the story not the reporter. rest in peace.

  15. - SAP - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 5:24 pm:

    One of the last Old-Timey Giants.

  16. - Union Thug Gramma - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 7:45 pm:

    You forgot all of his strong union affiliations, both as a steward and an officer. I listened to him on Saturday on WCPT, don’t know about freak flag, but frank and honest support of his causes. He still did the hard work of making sure he knew all details that he could find when developing a story/interview. He also loved to remind his listeners that he offered time to ALL politicians, just some, both D and R chose to not come on his program. Just afraid of frank and factual questions instead of glossy softball questions.
    He will be missed.

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