William W. Broom, 78, National Press Club leader

February 12, 2003|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

William W. Broom, former president of the National Press Club and father of WMAR-TV reporter Scott Broom, died Monday of Parkinson's disease at Roland Park Place. He was 78.

Born in Dieterich, Ill., he grew up in nearby Effingham, where he delivered newspapers during the Depression.

Graduating from Effingham High School at age 16, he entered the University of Illinois. Two years later, he joined the Army - which proved to be a step toward a career in journalism.

"The Army was training him to be a medical corpsman," his son said. "But Japan surrendered before they shipped him out, and he ended up working for the base newspaper in Fort Bliss, Texas."

After returning to the university, he earned a degree in journalism in 1946. Through the 1950s, he worked for newspapers in Illinois, Texas and California, and in public relations for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

He became editor of the Press-Telegram newspaper in Long Beach, Calif., in 1965, and was an early advocate of investigative journalism.

During the Watergate years, Mr. Broom was Washington bureau chief of what was then Ridder Newspapers. In 1972, he was among a group of journalists who traveled with President Richard M. Nixon to the Soviet Union.

In 1975, Mr. Broom was sworn in as president of the National Press Club by President Gerald R. Ford and served for a year.

"My dad is like a lot of guys from little towns all over America, for whom the war and the GI Bill opened up a world of opportunity," Scott Broom said. "He did things, and saw places neither he nor his parents would have dreamed of during the Depression. But he never forgot where he came from."

Mr. Broom retired in 1990 as vice president for public affairs at the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1999, he moved to Baltimore to be near his son.

A former trombone player in college, Mr. Broom was a jazz lover who amassed a large vinyl and CD collection.

His wife of 31 years, the former Birdsall Smith, died in 1988.

Plans for services to be held in Philadelphia are incomplete.

Survivors also include another son, Timothy C. Broom of San Clemente, Calif.; a brother, Richard G. Broom of Pagosa Springs, Colo.; and two granddaughters.

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