- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Henry W. "Hank" Pearson, a veteran newspaperman who taught the craft to cub reporters as senior assistant metropolitan editor for The Washington Times, died of cancer yesterday at Washington Hospital Center. He was 56.
Mr. Pearson, who lived in Alexandria, covered everything from cops and courts to presidential candidates as a reporter for newspapers and magazines. As an editor at The Times for the last eight years of a 30-year career, he was a mentor who had a knack for training and inspiring young reporters on the metropolitan staff.
"He knew how to take hold of a newsroom," said his wife, Jacqueline, herself a newspaper editor. "As an editor, he shared what he knew and could turn a story around with a few keystrokes. As a writer, he could make the most complex story read as easily as a Rex Stout novel, one of his favorite writers."
Said Wesley Pruden, editor in chief of The Times, last night: "Hank was an old pro, and there is no higher accolade from me. He had gentleness and character, and he helped make our newsroom what it is, and there is a mournful sadness in the newsroom tonight. I will miss him. We all will."
Assistant Managing Editor Ken McIntyre, who brought Mr. Pearson to The Times when he was metropolitan editor, praised his handling of reporters. "Hank was old school. He was a gruff, demanding bear of an editor who refused to coddle experienced reporters if they hadn't done their homework on behalf of our readers. Hank expected the relevant facts to be laid out in plain English, especially when it came to bureaucrats and politicians spending the taxpayers' money.
"But at the same time, Hank was an encouraging and patient coach to younger, less-confident reporters. He happily took the time to teach them what to look for and show them how to write it up. Those reporters loved Hank for it."
Mr. Pearson was born in Mystic, Conn., on July 8, 1946. He got his first reporting job at the Hartford Times in 1972 after receiving a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Connecticut.
He covered politics and criminal justice for Connecticut Magazine in 1974 and later taught journalism at the University of Connecticut. As Sunday editor of the Norwich Bulletin from 1980 to 1983, he redesigned and re-energized one of the state's oldest papers.
Mr. Pearson signed on as a national political reporter and columnist for Capital Cities/ABC-TV in 1983 and covered the 1984 presidential campaign. His reporting on a murder committed by a career criminal freed under the federal witness protection program was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1986.
Mr. Pearson became the founding editor of the Prince William County Journal in 1986. Four years later, he was named associate publisher, supervising the editorial, sales and circulation staffs of two of the Journal Newspapers' six daily and weekly editions.
He joined The Times in 1994, where his duties on the metro desk included overseeing coverage of government and politics in Virginia and, later, in-depth special reports. He was the project editor on an award-winning series of articles in 1999 on the challenges of Northern Virginia's growing racial and ethnic diversity, which focused on Baileys Crossroads.
Mr. Pearson's other journalism honors included three Keystone prizes for feature writing, news writing and political reporting; a Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors Award for political reporting; and a Virginia Press Association General Excellence award for managing editors.
"Hank was idolized by the young reporters on the metro staff," Assistant Managing Editor Geoffrey Etnyre said. "When I would see these reporters giving up weekend after weekend to work the metro desk, I would praise them for their dedication. One by one they told me it wasn't about dedication, but about the chance to learn from Hank how to work a story and work a beat. There's no higher praise than that."
Mr. Pearson played golf with a similar passion, always walking the course. He owned a set of mismatched golf clubs that he treated with love or disdain, depending on which had worked for him the day he won the Club Championship 2nd Flight at Ridgeview Golf Club in Centreville, Va.
He also loved the water, delighting in a motorboat that he called the S.S. Pushy. He participated in the Off-Sounding races on Long Island Sound.
Besides his wife, Jacqueline, Mr. Pearson is survived by two sisters, Margaret Girard of Mystic, Conn., and Pamela Berry of Groton, Conn.; a brother, Richard, of Groton; and 14 nieces and nephews.
Services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Poquonnock Bridge Baptist Church in Groton. A memorial service will be held later in Washington.


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