Norman T. Wilson, night metropolitan editor for The Sun and former Evening Sun reporter and assistant city editor, died of a heart attack Tuesday at his Brooklyn Park home. He was 57.
Mr. Wilson, whose career at The Evening Sun and The Sun spanned nearly 29 years, had been The Sun's night editor, responsible for putting the local news section to bed, since 1993.
Mr. Wilson was born in the Harlem section of New York City and raised by his maternal grandmother after the death of his parents.
As an 11-year-old playing in a park, he saw a woman drop her pocketbook, gathered its contents and caught up to her. The man with her, New York Times reporter Gerald Fitzgerald, took an interest in him, paying his tuition to Silesian High School in the Bronx. He also paid his expenses at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor's degree in English.
After serving in the Air Force for four years, Mr. Wilson returned to New York and earned a master's degree in 1971 from the Columbia School of Journalism. While there, he worked as a news assistant and clerk for The New York Times.
He began his career at the Afro-American in 1971, and was hired as an Evening Sun reporter in 1972. He worked as a general assignment reporter and covered City Hall and the Maryland General Assembly.
"He was a solid, thorough reporter who covered his beats ... with a sharp, skeptical, but genial intelligence that earned him the respect and admiration from those he covered and those with whom he worked," said Carl Schoettler, a former Evening Sun reporter and now a Sun feature writer.
"He had a strong sense of his personal worth and integrity and that natural bull detector that was indispensable," Mr. Schoettler said.
Mr. Wilson was one of the first blacks hired at The Sunpapers and also was the first black editorial writer to work on a Baltimore daily newspaper when he wrote editorials for The Evening Sun in 1981.
"It couldn't have been too comfortable being a black in the newsroom in those years, and the pressure was enormous for Norm, because he had to travel in two different worlds," said William E.N. Hawkins, a former Evening Sun editor and now executive editor of the Durham (N.C.) Herald Sun.
"He walked a fine line and understood the black political machine and the role of the newspaper. And he always played it straight down the middle," he said.
"He was a credit to fairness and a good objective reporter. And because of his experience, [he] represented a very balanced and clear view of the needs of the African-American community," said Charles G. Tildon, political activist and retired Community College of Baltimore president.
Ernest F. Imhoff, retired assistant managing editor for The Evening Sun and The Sun who helped hire Mr. Wilson, recalled his newsroom jocularity while on deadline: "He loved to rip a story out of his typewriter after two paragraphs and yell to the copyboy, `This page has a train and plane to catch, so move it, son.'"
In 1982, he was promoted to assistant city editor for The Evening Sun. Shortly thereafter, he became an assistant metro editor, working the overnight shift until being named night editor.
He had the demanding job of getting the day's news into the next morning's paper, a task he expedited in a quick and unflappable manner.
"Norm Wilson was simply a sweet man who belied any image one might have of a gruff-talking, hard boiled editor," said David Michael Ettlin, a newsroom colleague. "He shepherded late-breaking news into the paper on time ... and worked with countless reporters, making sure their stories were clear in meaning and crisply told. And when he was done, he'd often say, `Thanks, podna.' It was like a verbal pat on the back."
"He was often heard to say while editing a particularly cumbersome dispatch, `Say what you gotta say and be done with it,'" said Rafael Alvarez, former Sun rewrite man. "He had the ability to make young reporters feel good about the cuts he needed to make, as though the surgery was necessary to save the life of the patient."
William K. Marimow, editor of The Sun, described him as the "consummate newsman who could handle any story with grace and professionalism under true deadline duress. ... We will miss him more than words can express."
A bookish man, Mr. Wilson also enjoyed jazz and gathering with colleagues for a midnight martini at Burke's downtown cafe.
He enjoyed cooking ribs, chicken, steaks and corn on his backyard grill for family and friends.
Mr. Wilson's marriage to the former Rita L. Wilson ended in divorce.
A wake will be held at 9 a.m. Monday with funeral services at 9:30 a.m. at March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave., Baltimore.
He is survived by a son, Desmond Wilson of Baltimore; two daughters, Johnsi Cora Wilson of Brooklyn Park and Rachel Lee Chapman-Wilson of St. Paul, Minn.; a brother, Charles Wilson Chester of Philadelphia; two sisters, Beverly J. Cruz of the Bronx and Carol Ann Faulk of St. Paul; his fiancee, Michelle Williams of Brooklyn Park; six nephews; and three nieces.