Pete Willett Remembers Stanley Whitaker

Here's how Pete Willett remembers the late Unipresser Stanley Whitaker:


(Whitaker) was the finest Unipresser I had the privilege of knowing and certainly the finest boss.

In an age of charletans, he stood out like a beacon.

I once asked Lyle Wilson how it was Washington had so many Southern Division staffers when the Southern was so much smaller staff-wise than others like the Pacific and Central, etc?

Lyle said that whenever he had an opening in WA, he messaged the division managers asking for nominations. He soon learned that Bart and his kind used this (WA) as a dumping ground, a means of getting rid of unwanted staffers (without having to pay severance); whereas Whit would nominate his best people.

I later asked Whit about this. He wanted people to get ahead. If someone was good, they should be promoted, even if it meant losing them. (When RWB took over the division he immediately halted the practice, saying the division was losing too many good people).

Interesting that the obit called Whit a story-teller. He was as taciturn as they come and it was rare if he ever wrote a business letter longer than one pgh. Most of his missives were one sentence in length. ("Take another look at the way you are handling the Charlotte Observer." was typical).

Whit didn't have many rules, but there was one that if broken meant instant dismissal for busreps: whenever you pulled into a bureau town (NV, RA, JK, etc) you took the bureau manager and his wife to dinner, or if they couldn't go then the night manager and his wife, etc. You better make damned sure you took someone in that buo and their wife out or else. They were at the end of the trolley line and busreps were his (Whit's) personal representatives.

Another "rule" was "The day you have to say you're boss you aren't."

If someone was going to quit to go into business for themselves, he would help them, even put up some money. But if they were going to work for someone else, UP was as good an outfit to work for as anyone.

I know he worked for UP in Chicago for some years and was our first Denver bureau manager (where he developed his love for fly fishing.) He also was Southwest Division manager a number of years in Dallas before moving to Atlanta.

He was a great innovator: Whit was the one who found TTS (in the phoner's scrap pile), renovated it and started it up (and almost gave UP a lock on it). He was way ahead in the development of stock market services.

After he was fired (no, he did not retire in '56; FHB fired him, Masterson, McCabe, Wilson in short order after becoming pres -- don't leave any possible successors around); Whit went on to help build one of the country's largest suburban newspaper groups (unknown to most since he was very reticent).

Ironic that two of the most successful business/management individuals in the entire news industry (Whit and Bill Payette) both were forced out byfolks more interested in currying favor with S-H editors and getting ahead politically.