Edwin W. Goodpaster, a retired national editor for The Baltimore Sun, died of heart disease Jan. 8 at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 91 and lived on University Parkway.
Born in Mount Pulaski, Ill., he was the son of Ernest Goodpaster, a janitor, and his wife, Pearl.
After graduating from Mount Pulaski High School, he obtained a degree in journalism at the University of Miami and was a reporter for the Miami Hurricane, a college daily paper.
He enlisted in the Army at the end of World War II and was assigned to the occupation of Japan. He was a second cousin of Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, who served as NATO’s supreme allied commander.
After his military service, he took a reporting job at the Minneapolis Tribune. In 1952, he was assigned to cover a visit by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who was hunting out Communists. He recalled the interview with the senator — conducted in a bathroom, as the senator shaved.
“He was amused that he saw the senator in Jockeys only,” said his son, Clark Goodpaster of Waltham, Mass.
He later wrote for the San Fernando County Times, then from 1965 to 1972 was news editor of the Time Magazine bureau in Washington, where he worked alongside White House correspondent Hugh Sidey.
“He got only one or two bylines. He rarely traveled with campaign caravans or attended presidential press conferences,” Mr. Sidey wrote. Nevertheless, he said, “Time's Washington bureau would have been hard-pressed to operate without Edwin Goodpaster.
“As news editor and deputy bureau chief, Goodpaster was the executive officer, deploying the troops of the 23-man bureau. He also played copy editor, assignment maker, staff psychiatrist and domestic-affairs counselor,” Mr. Sidey said. “When gas masks and helmets were needed for reporters covering the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Goodpaster found them. Or Arctic underwear for reporters on their way to Greenland.”
“It was an exciting time to be in Washington. There were riots, the Vietnam War and Watergate,” said his daughter, Emily Goodpaster of Milan, Italy. “My father looked back on those years fondly.”
Mr. Goodpaster, who by then had a wife and three children, engineered a move from Bethesda to Wisconsin, where he bought the Whitehall Times, a local newspaper with a circulation of 2,400.
“My father was a bit of a maverick. He wanted to bring reforming journalist sensibility to a small town,” said his son Clark. “He said he wanted his children to know the trash man and the banker. We met both the first day there. It was a bit of a social experiment for him.”
Mr. Goodpaster assigned newspaper duties to his children, who were then in their teens. His 11-year-old daughter, Emily, wrote “Sunshine from Sunset,” about her school experiences at Sunset Elementary School. Clark wrote a sports column and another son, Andrew, did photography. His wife sold and laid out ads. The Goodpaster clan delivered the paper from a battered International Scout.
After two years, Mr. Goodpaster sold the Whitehall Times to its original owner and was back in Washington as a deputy national editor of The Washington Post. He re-settled his family in Bethesda.
An admirer of President Jimmy Carter and his populist approach to government, Mr. Goodpaster became press secretary for the Department of Agriculture during the Georgia Democrat’s administration. He left the post when President Carter lost the 1980 election.
Mr. Goodpaster then edited a magazine published by the Wilderness Society and in 1981 moved to Williamsport, Pa., to be president and publisher of Grit, a national weekly popular in the heartland.
“It was another job my father loved,” said Clark Goodpaster. “Grit was designed to be a larger national edition of a small-town newspaper. He edited it for people who believed in a simpler, long ago time in America.”
Again he returned to Washington and joined The Baltimore Sun’s Washington Bureau in 1982 as its day-to-day manager. He coordinated the work of its reporters and wrote a column, “Memo from Washington,” until he moved to Baltimore and took over the paper’s national desk.
He retired in 1997, then taught journalism at Hood College. He also did some work for the Christian Science Monitor.
Mark H. Matthews, a former Sun reporter who worked with Mr. Goodpaster, said: “He thought differently from other editors and he could come up with offbeat story ideas. He was not as keen on daily news stories as he was on a good feature or an investigative piece.”
Mr. Matthews said Mr. Goodpaster “had an interest in America outside Washington. He had both an understanding of the Farm Belt and he had an understanding of lobbyists. He was interested in D.C. and how legislation got passed and of the inner workings of government.
“He also had a sparkling sense of humor,” said Mr. Matthews.
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“Ed was a great word guy and, as an editor, he cared less about the 30,000-foot view than details,” said Ellen Uzelac, a former West Coast bureau chief for The Sun and national correspondent. “He was all about on-the-ground reporting. Years ago, I was having a hard time closing out a book I had written. … ‘Write about your everyday,’ he said. ‘What’s that look like now? Give me the details, kid. Get your head out of the clouds and focus on the details.’
“I learned quickly not to call him until the evening news shows were over,” she recalled. “That was sacred time to him. He was a news junkie who cared a lot about the world we live in.”
Ms. Uzelac added: “I’ll never forget that at 90, when most people are thinking about end-of-life issues, Ed decided to take up guitar lessons.”
Another colleague at The Sun, Jan Warrington, former features editor, called Mr. Goodpaster “a huge presence in the newsroom back in the ’80s. He cared deeply not just about national news, but about the entire newspaper — metro, sports, features. He was a fierce competitor."