Friday, October 14, 2005

George Ringwald Dies, Pulitzer Prize Winner at Riverside Press-Enterprise

Let's pause today to mark the passing of a great newspaperman, George Ringwald, who won a Pulitzer Prize for protecting the Agua Caliente Indian tribe from unscrupulous white guardians in 1968 as a reporter for the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Ringwald, 81, died of cancer last Sunday, Oct. 9, at his home in Eureka.

I knew Ringwald well. In fact, he was responsible for giving me my first real job in journalism, as a vacation-relief reporter for him when he worked as the Press-Enterprise reporter in Palm Springs in 1955.

Ringwald was in his late 20s when he took the Palm Springs assignment, introducing honest journalism and a skeptical mind to a town that saw little of it up to that time. Not only did he protect the Indians, but he went after gambling proposals in the nearby town of Cabazon and investigated a controversial city councilman in Palm Springs, Jerry Nathanson, who claimed to be my father's fifth cousin by marriage.

In 1952, when as a 14-year-old, I became a prep reporter for the Press-Enterprise on Palm Springs High School sports, Ringwald was working seven days a week at the paper's regular correspondent in town. He started asking me to stop by the police station on Saturdays, pick up what news there was, write it up and take it to the Greyhound bus station in Palm Springs by 12:30 p.m., to send it on to Riverside.

Then, after I got my driver's license, Ringwald suggested to Al Perrin, then managing editor of the Press, to take me on as vacation relief for two weeks. Just an hour after he left town on vacation, a sensational murder was uncovered. The Palm Springs city building inspector, Dutch Graham, had been killed in his kitchen by a man who claimed he had made advances to his wife. This was my real start in journalism.

When Ringwald won his Pulitzer in 1968, the prestigeous award for meritorious public service, the staid Press-Enterprise celebrated the event with champagne in the city room. Also contributing to the newspaper's coverage of the Agua Caliente tribe controversy was the late great editorial page editor, Norman Cherness, a prominent figure in California journalism.

The prizewinning stories had to do with a group of judges and attorneys who were responsible for robbing the Agua Caliente drive by charging exorbitant fees on their estates when tribe members died.

Ringwald left the Press-Enterprise is 1969, first for a Stanford fellowship and then became the BusinessWeek bureau chief in Tokyo for 15 years. Later, he retired to Eureka.

Ringwald was an idealistic iconoclast who once proposed that Detroit stop making cars and let the American people find another, non-polluting way to get around.

He is survived by his wife, Kimiko, and two sons, one by a former marriage.

When I called down to the Press-Enterprise to see if there would be a memorial service, I was told that so much time had passed that no one in the city room had worked there while Ringwald did, so no one not retired remembered him.

I suppose not. But I remember Ringwald as a young honest reporter, ambitious to make his mark on Palm Springs and Riverside County. May he rest in peace.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Reich:

Thank you for your article about George Ringwald. My mother and he grew up in St. Louis, where they attended Harrison School and Beaumont High School. They got in contact again in the 1990s, when my mother was helping to plan their class reunions. She was deeply disturbed earlier in the year when she found out Mr. Ringwald was so sick.

I am sending her your remembrance.

12/15/2005 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Reich,
I would like to have a personal e-mail conversation with you regarding your friend who recently passed away, George Ringwald. Can you please contact me at stevenkray@hotmail.com. Thank you.

2/26/2006 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post on Mr. Ringwald. He is not forgotten. I have added a substantial amount of information on his efforts to Wikipedia's Palm Springs entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Springs%2C_California#Mid-Century_Period) and you will be pleased to know that many of Mr. Ringwald's articles will be on display on the new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum when it opens its doors in 2008.

Best, Jon (kimchifan@gmail.com)

7/04/2006 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Catherine Probst said...

Dear Mr.Reich,
Thank you for your wonderful article on George Ringwald. I remember him well from my childhood in Riverside in the 1950's and '60's. Al Perrin,the then-managing editor whom you mentioned and his wife, Patty, are my family's best family friends. Al and Patty were like another set of parents to my sister,brother& me, as my parents were to the Perrin children.
My folks thoroughly admired the Press-Enterprise and its marvelous staff: Al, George Ringwald, Norman Cherness, and the excellent photographer Fred Bauman, all close friends of the Perrins. At that time the Press-Enterprise staff were like family to eachother. The P-E won some annual designation for cities of that size as second in the nation in general excellence. I recall also that another P-E staff member also won a Pulitzer Prize for work he had done as a Press-Enterprise staffer.
I am sure you have just as much right to be proud of your own achievements in journalism as you were of those of your great mentor, George Ringwald.
Even as a young child, I could sense that there was something special about all of them....
Thank you for the tribute and for the trip down memory lane...

Sincerely,
Cath Probst

8/15/2011 3:53 PM  
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