(Note: Updates and expands earlier post)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bill Rawlins, who wrote about state government and politics during a 46-year career with The Associated Press, died early Monday in Nashville. He was 82.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Suzanne. She didn’t specify a cause of death.
The last 42 years of his career were spent in Tennessee, and the final 20 reporting from the state Capitol. Part of that time he was the dean of statehouse reporters.
He retired in 1994. Shortly before his retirement, a General Assembly resolution honored his “unswerving commitment to fair and accurate reporting.”
The resolution also cited his expertise at shorthand, saying he took notes “at such a rapid pace that smoke sometimes seems to rise from his pad and pencil.”
Nicknamed “Rocky” because he worked in the circulation department for the Rocky Mountain News in Rawlins, Wyo., during high school, Rawlins began working for AP part time in 1948 in Albuquerque, N.M., while a student at the University of New Mexico.
He transferred to Nashville in 1952, to Knoxville in 1953 and became Chattanooga correspondent in 1960. During his tenure there, he covered the jury-tampering trial and conviction of Teamsters’ president Jimmy Hoffa.
Rawlins returned to the Nashville bureau in 1964 when he was named state editor, a post later renamed news editor. In the early 1970s he moved to the Capitol office where he was known for his vast knowledge of state government.
In 1976, he scooped dozens of national reporters at the Republican National Convention with first word that President Gerald Ford had chosen Sen. Bob Dole as his running mate.
In 1979, he covered the removal from office of then-Gov. Ray Blanton three days before his term ended. Blanton was ousted after state officials learned he had pardoned or commuted the prison terms of 52 state inmates and planned to release others.
In 1981, Rawlins covered Blanton’s federal trial and conviction for selling a state liquor license.
As the AP’s Capitol correspondent, he covered the administrations of Blanton, Lamar Alexander and Ned McWherter.
“I remember Bill as a very detailed, responsible reporter,” McWherter said Monday from his home in West Tennessee. “He would come to committee meetings and stay through the entire meeting and learn how people really felt about the legislation and the effect it would have on communities, then he would report it in that matter.”
In 1965, he wrote a story on the plight of a southeast Tennessee coal miner at Christmastime and subsequently the miner and his community received gifts and money from across the country.
While in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Rawlins wrote often about the Tennessee Valley Authority and the old Atomic Energy Commission.
Rawlins was born in Pleasantville, Iowa.
Besides his wife, Rawlins is survived by a son, Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance; a daughter, Ruth Colgan; and a brother, Paul N. Rawlins.
Funeral arrangements were pending Monday.