Norman A. Lockman, whose 50 years in journalism took him from covering Little League games to a Pulitzer Prize, died Monday at the age of 66.

The longtime News Journal columnist had suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Lou Gehrig's disease - for several years. He died at his Wilmington home.

"I've known Norm Lockman as a co-worker and friend for more than 25 years. He loved this business. He loved making people think, react to all kinds of issues," said W. Curtis Riddle, president and publisher of The News Journal. "I used to kid Norm that I thought he sometimes took the most extreme perspective on an issue, not because he believed it, but to stir folks to think and voice their opinion. He would only smile when I suggested that. Norm Lockman was an important voice for The News Journal, and he will be missed."

Lockman began writing a column in 1991, sharing his opinions on topics from world affairs to local schools.

He was a reporter for much of his career and served as The News Journal's managing editor for seven years. But he relished opinion writing.

As his illness progressed and a wheelchair replaced his cane, Lockman spent less time in the newsroom. He continued writing his column, offering insights and sparking controversy, never letting readers know about his illness.

Finally, on Nov. 28, he said it was time to stop writing.

"Good journalism cannot be done by phone," he wrote. "It requires being able to scurry around, seeing, tasting and smelling the things you write about from as close as possible without getting mixed up in the story. My chronic illness makes that hard to do, so I'm going to hang up my slouch hat and turn in my press card while I can still bring this old career of mine in for a nice smooth landing."

His voice on the editorial pages will be missed, said John Taylor, editor of those pages.

"I worked with Norman for more than 30 years and I've lost a treasured colleague and friend," Taylor said. "Delaware has lost a valuable critical voice. His insights about everything from education and city politics to race and the problems in the Middle East immeasurably enhanced the opinion pages of our newspaper."

Lockman was a confidant to Littleton P. Mitchell, of Delaware City, a longtime Delaware educator and civil rights activist. "When we could not get anyone else to listen, Norm listened," Mitchell said. "There were others who did not like Norm - the reason being he would not bow to their dictations. There were politicians and people in various organizations who did not appreciate him because of his commitment not to them but to the truth. ... We've lost one of the most excellent news journalists we've ever had."

He is survived by his wife, Ginny, his former wife, Carol Ressler Lockman, and three daughters, Holly Quinn and her husband John, Carey Corin and her husband Craig, and Elizabeth Lockman. He is survived by grandchildren Shane Quinn and Sophie Lockman.

A natural journalist

Journalism was a natural choice for Lockman, a busybody, as his mother often called him.

He lived up to his mother's title, always "peeking at other people's lives and situations from the sidelines and blabbing about it in the newspaper."

He began as a reporter at 16, covering Little League baseball for his hometown weekly in Kennett Square, Pa. He moved on to cover high school sports. He went off to Pennsylvania State University, where he worked at The Daily Collegian. Back at the Kennett News & Advertiser, he filled the sports pages with local stories.

Kennett Square was a small, quiet town in the 1940s and 1950s. It had been founded by Quakers and was a way station on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Despite this background, the town was socially segregated during Lockman's childhood. His was one of three black families living there. He recalled not being able to eat at the restaurant where his white friends ate. At the movies, he sat in the balcony.

In nearby Delaware, segregation was legal. And The News Journal papers, owned by the du Pont family, did not hire black reporters.

So Lockman joined the U.S. Air Force, where he edited a base newspaper and wrote and reported on space flights, the X-15 and aerospace science. When he was discharged in 1965, he found a job as a social worker helping mentally ill men. He started writing a column for the "Agonizer" paper in Kennett Square.

In 1968, riots erupted in Wilmington after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Rioting was mild compared with other cities. But Delaware's governor refused to withdraw National Guard troops from the streets during the longest military occupation of an American city since the Civil War.

In the aftermath, institutions began to change.

"On May 1, 1969, a full year after the King assassination riots," Lockman later recalled, "I became the first black reporter to be hired full time by The News Journal, after years of applying."

Fred Hartmann, the News Journal editor who hired him, said it was an easy decision.

"I recognized his talent right away. He became a great credit to his craft. I remember him for his remarkable wit as much as anything. He had a consummate understanding of Delaware and its people. I'll remember him for that, too."

Before that, Lockman said, "I had become a social worker because major daily newspapers wouldn't hire black journalists, even if they had experience. I had 10 years' experience, four editing a military newspaper in California. I'd written a column for six years."

Jay Harris, another African-American, started as a part-time reporter the same day. He later became publisher of the San Jose Mercury News and now is a journalism professor at the University of Southern California.

In three years, Lockman went from general assignment reporter to city hall reporter, government editor and Washington bureau chief.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said of Lockman:

"Norm was very tough, but he was always fair. He had a skepticism but not a cynicism, and there's a significant difference. He always believed that the system could work, that it had to work."

Lockman was in Washington when the Watergate story broke and remembered the strange night before President Nixon resigned in August 1974. "I was in the White House pressroom when it was sealed for four hours and the telephones were shut off," he said. "Finally as dusk fell, they set us free but by that time, none of us wanted to leave. By nightfall, word had spread and crowds were pressing up against the White House fence three and four people deep, silently waiting. We reporters went along the inside of the fence interviewing people, trying to capture history through the eyes of tourists. It was a haunting night, hard to forget."

Soon afterward, he left for the Boston Globe. He stayed there for 10 years, serving as statehouse bureau chief and on the Globe's editorial board.

While at the Globe, Lockman and five other reporters began a 16-month investigation that led to a Globe series examining race relations called "Boston: The Race Factor." The series, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for local reporting, demonstrated that the color of one's skin played a role in jobs, housing, income and education.

In 1984, Lockman was invited to return to The News Journal as managing editor.

Some things had changed, but others had not. "The newsroom staff was still nearly all white," Lockman said. "One of the first things I did upon returning was to declare that, for two years, every other reporter hired would be a qualified minority. Eyebrows rose until the Gannett Co., which by then owned The News Journal and 100 other newspapers including USA Today, endorsed the plan as part of its own corporate aims of increasing minorities in its newsrooms."

Managing editor for 7 years

Lockman served as managing editor for seven years. He drummed it into reporters that stories were found on the s

Published by The News Journal on Apr. 19, 2005.
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