Weldon Wallace, 83, Sun reporter, music critic, foreign correspondent

March 27, 1996|By FRED RASMUSSEN | FRED RASMUSSEN,SUN STAFF

Weldon Wallace, who during his 38-year career as a critic and reporter for The Sun could nimbly write about the complexities of a Bach fugue or the tempestuous nature of politics in Italy, died Sunday of arteriosclerosis at his Homeland residence. He was 83.

He began his career in 1933 as a reporter for the Daily Ardmoreite in Ardmore, Okla., and, after working as program director for a radio station there, joined The Sun in 1940 as music critic.

He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and was assigned to Special Services, where he edited the Report newsletter from a bombed-out high-rise in downtown Manila, the Philippines.

After his discharge in 1946, he returned to The Sun and found that the music beat was being handled by a Sunday Sun feature writer, Flora C. Murray. They split the beat for a time, fell in love and married in 1947. In 1949, he was appointed The Sun's first medical writer.

In 1955, he won the Civil Liberties Award of the Maryland Civil Liberties Committee for his 1954 series "This is Prejudice," which examined the basis of religious and national prejudice.

In 1962, he was appointed chief of The Sun's Rome bureau. He described the territory he covered from Rome as being "greater than Alexander's Empire since it included the Middle East and Africa as well as Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean nations."

While on assignment in 1963 in the Belgian Congo, now Zaire, one of the more dramatic events of his career occurred.

Trying to obtain visas at the Rhodesian border, he and two other reporters were held at gunpoint by drunken rebel leaders who accused them of being United Nations spies. After the intervention of another reporter, they were freed by a rebel officer just as they were about to be executed.

Readers knew Mr. Wallace for his reporting of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Pope Paul VI's visit to the Holy Land and India and his column, "Just Off the Corso."

He returned to Baltimore in 1966 and was named the newspaper's first religion editor, a position he held until he retired in 1977.

Said Paul A. Banker, retired managing editor of The Sun, "Weldon was in the old days one of the most versatile members of the staff and one of the most enthusiastic. He could cover everything general assignments, murders, medical and his great love, music."

"He was absolutely the most cheerful reporter I've ever known, besides being meticulous and scrupulously accurate in his reporting," said John H. Plunkett, retired Sun assistant managing editor.

"He had two great gifts. He was unfailingly pleasant and fair about things. He also had the manners of a late Victorian baron who never said anything coarse about anyone, and his use of the English language was memorable," said retired Sun reporter Carleton Jones.

After he retired, Mr. Wallace studied painting and was a volunteer at several organizations, including the Radio Reading Network of Maryland and Meals On Wheels.

He was born in Oklahoma City and raised there and in Texas. He attended the University of Texas, Columbia University and the Institute of Musical Art in New York.

A memorial program will be held at 3 p.m. May 4 at Roland Park Country School, 5204 Roland Ave.

He is survived by his wife; two sons, Dr. Robert Wallace of Evanston, Ill., and Mark Wallace of Troy, Maine; a daughter, Cynthia Wallace McKee of Chevy Chase; and three grandsons.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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