Remembering Tyler Whitley
There was, and only ever will be, one dean of the Capitol press corps: Tyler Whitley.
Virginia journalism lost one of its giants on Nov. 18 with the death of Mr. Whitley at age 83.
Mr. Whitley’s remarkable career with Richmond newspapers — first with The Richmond News Leader, then the RichmondTimes-Dispatch after they merged— spanned more than a half-century, from 1960 to 2011.
He covered Virginia politics for much of that tenure, chronicling 11 governors, dozens of sessions of the General Assembly and many national presidential nominating conventions. He also accompanied state trade delegations around the world, including storied trips to Jamaica, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Mr. Whitley was highly regarded across the political spectrum for his fairness. He was a reporter of the old school, never a “gotcha” journalist but one who valued objectivity. That’s why sources always returned his calls. They knew they would be treated fairly.
And if he couldn’t read his infamously bad handwriting after an interview, he would call back to make sure he was quoting the person correctly. He possessed humility, and never inserted himself into the story.
No matter the event, whether it was writing about the biggest pumpkin at the State Fair of Virginia or the inauguration of a new governor, Mr. Whitley treated every assignment as an A1 offering. He was dedicated to accuracy.
Mr. Whitley was a prolific writer, sometimes producing five stories a day. We marveled at his ability to pound out copy in a matter of minutes, including both the major policy points and minutiae of legislative wrangling.
In a news obituary, RTD columnist Jeff E. Schapiro aptly described Mr. Whitley’s prose as “to- the- point, often cleverly worded stories [that] couldmake candidates and officials more than names on a printed page.”
Mr. Whitley was a delightful colleague who always was willing to pitch in. His rapier wit and love of puns kept us in stitches— and still does years later, when we remember some of his quips. He was kind, never forgetting to inquire about the well-being of your family, spouse, children or pets.
He possessed a keen intellect and an extraordinary institutional memory, easily recalling past elections and obscure provisions of state code. Mr. Whitley knew everyone, and everyone knew— and respected — him.
It came as no surprise when Mr. Whitley was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 2012. A 2010 resolution of the U.S. House of Representatives honored his 50th year of journalistic excellence.
Besides journalism and his family, Mr. Whitley was dedicated to his alma maters, St. Christopher’s School andHampden- Sydney College, once telling us his favorite colors were the school’s gray and garnet.
We asked some of Mr. Whitley’s longtime colleagues to share their memories of this legendary newsman:
“Tyler was the quintessential pro. He was objective, honest and hardworking. I never knew what his personal politics were. He also had a puckish sense of humor that made him a joy to work with. He was a class act.”
— Dave Burton, retired deputy managing editor who
worked with Mr. Whitley at both the morning and afternoon
“He had a wonderful, mischievous sense of humor and loved the theater of the assembly. …Tyler understood the politics of the legislature, but he never played politics with his reporting. I respected him for the balance he always brought to the job. ...Tyler always had a twinkle in his eye when he delivered a zinger and that high ‘teehee-hee’ cackle...”
— Michael Martz, RTD reporter who worked with Mr. Whitley at both newspapers
“Tyler was a well-established newsroom presence when I arrived at The News Leader more than 30 years ago. He knew the Capitol and its inhabitants like few others, and he tirelessly cranked out story after story, day after day, enlightening generations of readers and those who watched in admiration a few desks away.”
— Bill Lohmann, RTD
“I knew Tyler’s reputation for fairness and generosity as a competing reporter years before I had the privilege of editing his tightly written, often witty stories at The Times- Dispatch. In 1999, I left Richmond after covering fiveGeneral Assembly sessions, to take a reporting job in Washington. Tyler offered an ice breaker, telling me that President Bill Clinton’s press secretary, Joe Lockhart, had worked in Virginia on Dick Davis’ 1981 campaign for lieutenant governor and on Norman Sisisky’s 1982 run for Congress in the 4th District. When I met Lockhart at the White House, I said: “Tyler Whitley, sage of the Richmond press corps, says hello.” Lockhart said: “Tyler was the sage when I was there.”
— Andrew Cain, RTD politics
“Tyler Whitley was one of a kind. I’m sure they broke the mold after he arrived. I worked with him covering the Virginia political scene, along with following the Virginia delegation to national political conventions for two decades and always knew I could count on him to answer any of my questions about what was going on or who I needed to photograph to best illustrate the news of the day. I remember many ‘Tyler moments’ over the years and some are best left unsaid. He had a dry, razor-sharp wit and amazing mind.” — Bob Brown, RTD senior
Tyler Whitley exemplified professionalism and adhered to the highest ethical standards of journalism. He was not only a cherished colleague but a beloved friend. Hewas, and always will be, the dean.
— Pamela Stallsmith