By: Christopher Sullivan, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Wick Temple, an Associated Press vice president whose four-decade career ranged from newsgathering in the civil rights-era South to leading the AP’s sports, news, personnel, and newspaper membership departments, has died. He was 65.
Temple had been undergoing treatment for throat cancer and was en route to a New York hospital Saturday with his wife, Margy McCay, when he died suddenly. It was not immediately known whether the cause of death was related to the cancer.
A smiling, avuncular presence at AP’s Rockefeller Plaza headquarters for 30 years, Temple once described the sweeping changes he had seen over his career: “Computerization, digital photos, the Internet … specialization in journalism that makes AP’s news report far better than it used to be.”
He was remembered for his own role in many of these changes at the AP.
“He was very, very good at what he did professionally and a very good friend,” said Burl Osborne, chairman of the AP board, publisher emeritus of The Dallas Morning News, and a colleague of Temple’s when Osborne worked at the AP himself. “The AP will miss him very much.”
After heading AP bureaus in St. Louis; Helena, Mont.; and Seattle, Temple moved to New York and became sports editor in 1973. In that position he directed coverage of such major events as the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the World Series.
In 1980, he was promoted to managing editor, directing day-to-day news operations, and in 1985, he became the AP’s first director of human resources. Since 1988, he had served as director of membership, a key position at the AP, a not-for-profit cooperative made up of member newspapers and broadcasters.
“Wick was the newspaper members’ advocate at headquarters. He brought four decades as a newsman, a bureau chief, and a senior editor and executive in New York to the task of maintaining the tightest bonds between us and our newspapers. And he did that superbly,” said Louis D. Boccardi, AP president and chief executive officer. “He never forgot the critical role our bureau chiefs play in this, and they will never forget his understanding leadership.”
Wick Temple was a second-generation AP newsman. Born Oct. 24, 1937, in Little Rock, Ark., he grew up in Pennsylvania, the son of R.W. Temple, who worked at the AP for 21 years.
Temple began his own news career at age 16 on the Texarkana Gazette, and worked for the Austin American-Statesman while attending the University of Texas. He joined the AP’s Little Rock bureau in 1959, when the civil rights struggle was a major story across the South.
Later, while running the Seattle bureau and helping to expand AP’s coverage of Alaska, he wrote about the building of the Alaska oil pipeline.
Temple’s byline was on AP’s story about legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper, who commandeered a plane, parachuted out carrying a briefcase full of money, and then vanished.
By coincidence, Temple happened to be at Sea-Tac Airport near Seattle at the time. He recalled later, “I dictated material from Sea-Tac until the plane took off … The skyjacker, as everyone knows, bailed out from the tail stairs of the 727, and we had that memorable quote from the FBI that ‘he’s probably screwed into the ground up to his elbows.'”
Colleagues said he drew on his firsthand news experience in all of his later management roles. One of Temple’s duties as membership director was to help oversee creation of AP’s multimedia site, The Wire.
Beyond that, said fellow AP executive and friend D. Byron Yake, “Wick was somebody who was truly loved by everyone. He was an endearing person.”
Temple is survived by McCay, AP’s director of personnel, and by four children from previous marriages, Shawn Temple of Basking Ridge, N.J.; Wick Temple Jr. of Everett, Wash.; Ellen Wallace of Langley, Wash.; and Carol Halter of East Aurora, N.Y. Other survivors include six grandchildren, a sister, Ann Graef, and a niece, Elaine Akin, both of Houston.