William B. "Bill" Talbott, a legendary, bow-tied police reporter for The Evening Sun who was often waiting at crime scenes when police showed up, died of a heart attack Friday night while working at his farm in Upperco. He was 70.
Mr. Talbott was found in a barn by his wife, the former Diane E. Denis, whom he married in 1986. He was pronounced dead at Carroll County General Hospital.
Mr. Talbott worked at The Evening Sun from 1947 until it closed in September 1995. He then worked at The Sun until he retired in early 1996.
Known as "the inspector" by fellow reporters for his close relationship with police, Mr. Talbott epitomized a breed of journalist that is nearly extinct today. He rarely set foot in the newsroom, and called in from public telephones, station houses and on a two-way radio in his car. He rarely "wrote" a story, instead dictating them to a city desk rewrite man.
He was gentlemanly, quiet and respectful, but very observant and persistent. Mr. Talbott knew Baltimore's alleys and shortcuts, speeding through them in his beat-up Mercedes-Benz convertible.
Homicide Detective Donald Steinhice said Mr. Talbott was waiting each day at police headquarters at 5 a.m., long before other reporters and even most officers arrived.
"He was a street guy," Mr. Steinhice said. "You'd be out at a scene, and you'd turn around and there he'd be, with that distinctive bow tie. Sometimes he'd get there before you. Sometimes all you'd have is a crime scene, a cold body, a hot cup of coffee -- and Bill Talbott."
Richard Irwin, a Sun police reporter, recalled his frustrating early days as a young reporter for the News American, trying to compete for stories against Mr. Talbott, who "knew the city better than anybody I've ever met."
"He almost got too close with the police," Mr. Irwin said. "He'd get tips on when a raid was going to happen, and he'd accompany the police on those raids, leaving the rest of us in his dust. Even now, cops still ask about him."
Mr. Talbott and two sisters were born and raised on North Avenue in West Baltimore's Walbrook section. Their father, Ira, was a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. lineman.
Phyllis Mitchell, a sister who lives in Harford County, said a respect for the police world was honed in that neighborhood. "We didn't call them cops. It was 'Officer,' " she said.
Mr. Talbot is preceded in death by his other sister, Marion Bohn.
After graduating from Polytechnic Institute, Mr. Talbott attended what is now Towson University, where he majored in English. While in college, he started working for The Evening Sun in 1947. Except for two years in the Army -- during which he continued to file stories for the newspaper -- he remained at The Evening Sun and then briefly at The Sun.
"He wanted to stay 50 years," said his stepdaughter, Victoria A. Young, who also lives on the farm.
In retirement, Mr. Talbott doted on his granddaughters -- Mrs. Young's children, Alexandra, 3, and Samantha, 5 months. He drove Alexandra to and from day care, where all the children called him "Pop-Pop."
On his 107-acre farm, which Mr. Talbott bought in 1967, he'd take Alexandra to the orchard where they'd peel and eat apples.
Mr. Talbott served for many years as treasurer of Maryland Press Club. He belonged to the Scottish Rite and Boumi Temple's BTC mounted patrol. He also was active in a Civil Air Patrol foreign exchange program and would show visiting students around Washington.
He was an active communicant of Emory United Methodist Church, 1600 Emory Road in Upperco, where services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow. He will be buried in the church cemetery near his farm.
He is also survived by a son, Dr. Neal B. Talbott, who is a physician near Fort Worth, Texas; a stepson, Theodore V. Ptaszynski of Baltimore; and four other grandchildren.
Pub Date: 12/21/98