Obit of Former Unipresser Bob Gordon

Former Unipresser Bob Gordon dead at 69

Robert "Bob" Gordon, a former United Press International reporter who documented the South's civil rights struggle, died from heart complications Saturday at age 69 on June 30, 2017.

Gordon's compassionate personality allowed him to properly cover the civil rights movement.

"He was cool about everything, the way a reporter should be. He always added a little humor with his stories, and that's how he approached life," said John Herbers, who worked with Gordon for UPI in the early 1960s.

Herbers said Gordon was highly intelligent, low key and very professional, which was why he was so effective.

"Reporters were not that popular with segregationists, but he knew how to get along with people although he disagreed with them," he said.

In 1966 while working for UPI, Gordon, a McComb, Miss., native, found himself in the middle of a clash during a school desegregation protest in Grenada. He was attacked and beaten by a mob while covering the city's first school desegregation case.

"We were always concerned for him, but he always managed to survive," said Gordon's brother, Jim Gordon. Gordon, a resident of the Reservoir area in Rankin County, Mississippi, had been retired since 1989 as the result of heart problems stemming from a major heart attack suffered two years earlier.

Gordon began his career as a reporter at the now-defunct State-Times in Jackson, Miss., after graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1960. He joined UPI in Atlanta in 1961.

For the next few years, he spent much of his time covering the civil rights movement, particularly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s major Birmingham campaign in 1962-63. He was among the first reporters on the scene following the church bombing that claimed the lives of four young black girls. In 1964, he transferred to UPI's Jackson bureau.

Gordon covered the Freedom Summer campaign and spent much of the year in the Philadelphia area where three civil rights volunteers were slain.

Gordon covered the Mississippi Legislature and politics, among other stories, for UPI before being named UPI bureau manager in Columbia, S.C., in 1966. He was a specialist on the South for UPI in its coverage of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, including some of the rioting in the city park. He was part of UPI's team covering both 1972 conventions.

Gordon became North Carolina manager for UPI in 1971 and was named regional editor for UPI in its Washington bureau in 1973. His last story as a reporter was coverage of the House Judiciary Committee's hearings on impeachment of President Nixon.

In 1977, he became the managing editor of The Jackson Daily News after working three years as metro editor of The News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

He kept that position after Gannett Co. Inc., bought the newspaper in 1981, and then was named as managing editor of The Clarion Ledger in 1982. He held that position when in 1983 The Clarion Ledger was named to Gannett's top award for outstanding achievement by a newspaper. In 1984, he became editorial director, in charge of the editorial pages of both the morning and afternoon newspapers in Jackson.

In 1986, Gordon was named executive editor of The Hattiesburg American. In June of the following year, Gordon suffered a major heart attack while jogging in a Jackson park, keeping him away from his office for months. In early 1988, he returned to The Clarion Ledger as associate editor, a position he held until forced by health to retire.

Those who knew Gordon will remember the tough journalist with a soft heart.

"He was such a caring person along with being a hard-nosed newsman, which is something you don't see that often in this business," said David Hampton, editorial director of The Clarion-Ledger said.

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