- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - Wayne Barrett was never flashy. No flowery prose, no national audience, no “platform.”

Barrett was a quiet, lethal hit man hiding in the shadows. Instead of bullets, he used facts.

“They could never sue him,” said Alexandria resident Larry Barrett of his younger brother and fellow Lynchburg native, who died Jan 19 of a long-term, progressive lung disease at 71, “because he crossed all the t’s and doted all his i’s.”

“They” included such New York City powerbrokers as former mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani and a financier named Donald Trump. Barrett wrote critical books - and countless newspaper and magazine articles - about all of them.

Trump threatened to sue Wayne,” Larry Barrett said, “and he just said, ‘Bring it.’”

Barrett’s style was as rough as his neighborhood.

“Like the way he answered the telephone,” Larry said. “It was always, ‘Yeah?’”

And his writing was straight to the jugular, filled with numbers and what lay behind those numbers, buttressed by facts.

“Sometimes his pieces got a little long and tedious to read,” Larry said, “but he always wanted everything in there.”

Educated at Holy Cross Catholic School in Lynchburg, St. Joseph’s University and Columbia University’s graduate school for journalism, Barrett settled into New York City after college and never left. For 37 years, he wielded his typewriter (and, later, computer) as a rapier on behalf of the Village Voice, a publication only dimly understood by most of the country but a fierce opinion-influencer in the Big Apple.

Barrett didn’t care if he was well-known in Iowa or Arizona. His turf was New York City, and he knew it well.

“I’ve heard it said so often that Wayne knew where all the bodies were buried,” Larry Barrett said. “He called himself a detective for the people.”

It was Thursday afternoon, and Larry was in the backseat of a car traveling up the New Jersey Turnpike, heading to Wayne’s funeral at Our Lady of the Presentation Catholic Church in Brooklyn. His brother Chris - a deacon at Resurrection Catholic Church in Moneta - was in the front passenger seat; Chris’ wife, Anne Gibbons, associate chaplain at Lynchburg College, was driving.

Wayne was always interested in journalism,” Chris said. “He was the editor of the school paper at Holy Cross and went off to a student journalism institute one summer. He covered the 1968 national political campaign for the National Catholic Reporter. He also finished second in a national debate competition when he was at Holy Cross.”

Wayne did briefly consider becoming a priest but dropped out of the seminary after a few months. His newspaper became his church.

“It’s the only job,” he once said, “where they pay you to tell the truth.”

To anyone who knew Wayne Barrett, the timing of his death was heavy irony - the day before his old adversary, Donald Trump, would be inaugurated as president of the United States. Trump’s unlikely campaign had brought Barrett back into the public eye. His 1992 book, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” became an out-of-print treasure.

Wayne heard that some people were willing to pay up to $2,000 for a copy,” Larry Barrett said. “Then, after Wayne wrote an updated introduction and the book was put out again, he found a box of the old ones in his basement.”

Barrett once crashed a party for Trump in Atlantic City to gather information for his book. He was removed in handcuffs and arrested for trespassing.

Over the past year, however, as Barrett battled his disease, a steady parade of writers and reporters came to his townhouse to pick his brain and rummage through his voluminous files on Donald Trump.

___

Information from: The News & Advance, https://www.newsadvance.com/

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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