* 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.
* ‘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