William Jabine II, a former Evening Sun reporter and assistant city editor who later became spokesman for the old State Roads Commission and the Department of Natural Resources, died Wednesday of pneumonia at Catonsville Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
The longtime Annapolis resident was 90.
"Bill was a meticulous newsman. He was always checking up on reported facts to make certain they were accurate before he put them in a story," said Helen Delich Bentley, a former newsroom colleague who later became a congresswoman and federal maritime administrator.
"That was one of the reasons that state agencies wanted someone like that on their staff, because he was such a precise person," said Mrs. Bentley.
"Bill was an aggressive reporter and a guy you could talk to, and because he was so personable, people were willing to tell him stories. And that is the essence of a newspaperman," recalled retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Thomas Ward, who had been an Evening Sun colleague. "And because he was able not to reveal confidences, people naturally trusted him."
The son of an Episcopal priest and a homemaker, William Jabine II was born in Aurora, N.Y., and lived on a farm until moving to Baltimore in 1936.
He attended Boys' Latin School and graduated in 1940 from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. His college studies at the University of North Carolina were interrupted during World War II when he enlisted in the Navy in 1942.
Mr. Jabine served aboard the destroyer escort USS Rolf as a torpedo man in the South Pacific. In 1946, he returned to Chapel Hill, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1947. During his college years, he was also on the staff of the Daily Tar Heel, the university's newspaper.
Mr. Jabine went to work in 1947 for WMAR-TV as a newsreel writer and later news writer. In 1950, he joined the staff of The Evening Sun as a reporter. He later became a political reporter, covering the legislature and national political conventions.
"All the young reporters tried to imitate his sardonic personal style: a mixture of humorous skepticism and tolerant, mocking disdain. He could get most pols to reveal their innermost secrets," said David Culhane, an Evening Sun colleague who later joined CBS News in New York City.
Mr. Culhane recalled the day he was given an assignment by Mr. Jabine and explained that he had done the same story six months ago.
"He said, 'Well, David, there are only five or six good stories in our business. If you know one of them, you should tell it once in a while,'" recalled Mr. Culhane. "Wise Bill was right — I did the story again — and came to understand one of the profound mysteries of journalism."
Mr. Jabine was an assistant city editor when he left the newspaper in the early 1960s and became spokesman for the old State Roads Commission.
"At the time, State Roads was coming out from underneath the cloud of a serious scandal, and Bill helped clean up its image," said James S. Keat, a retired Sun assistant managing editor who covered state government at the time.
Another one of Mr. Jabine's duties was presiding over the opening of many bridges and roads, including the Baltimore Beltway and the Northeastern Expressway in 1963, which became a segment of today's Interstate 95.
President John F. Kennedy dedicated the last link of the road on the Mason-Dixon line that would eventually be named for him on Nov. 14, 1963.
"I remembered him talking about it," said a daughter, Margaret "Meg" Elseroad of Towson. "A week later, President Kennedy was dead."
He left the commission in 1965, when he joined several newsroom colleagues in founding Jabine, Yingling, Smith & Goff, a public relations firm with headquarters in the American National Building.
In 1969, Mr. Jabine left the public relations firm when he was named editor of the Seaford Leader & News in Seaford, Del. A year later, he joined the Department of Natural Resources, working for its secretary.
He retired in 1984.
The former Northwood resident, who had lived on Northbourne Road, had been an Annapolis resident for the past 50 years.
In his retirement, Mr. Jabine sat at his typewriter in a spare room working on his memoirs and newspaper op-ed pieces. He was a prolific contributor of letters to the editor on a variety of subjects, to which he added dashes of humor.
In a 1982 letter that was published in The Evening Sun, Mr. Jabine wanted to correct what he saw as a reporter's error: "Marilyn Monroe did not invent the sweater. Lana Turner did. Marilyn Monroe invented the calendar."
Mr. Jabine returned to his Boys' Latin School days in a whimsical 1988 op-ed piece published in The Evening Sun.
He recalled the futile efforts of William Morris, an English teacher, in eliminating "to get" from the language, which he thought was a "slothful, sloppy word."
"So intense was his mission that Morris said at the beginning of every term he would deduct five points from a pupil's mark each time the verb was used in a composition theme or other writing assignment," wrote Mr. Jabine.
When a student protested and asked what he should do when his mother asked him "to get a quart of milk at the store," Mr. Jabine said his teacher responded with "biting benevolence."
"One buys or purchases, or if your lovely mother has established sufficient credit, charges the item at the store," he quoted his teacher as saying.
In addition to writing, Mr. Jabine enjoyed reading and crossword puzzles.
His wife of 35 years, the former Renee Brendel, who had been an administrative aide to Gov. Millard J. Tawes, died in 2002.
Mr. Jabine was a communicant and vestryman at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 1101 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis, where a memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
Mr. Jabine is also survived by a son, William Jabine III of Portland, Maine; another daughter, Lucinda Seets of Catonsville; a stepson, Daniel Davis of Williston, Fla.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Patricia Sterling ended in divorce.