The crowning irony of Ray F. Herndon’s journalism career is that the year he was a named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Investigative Reporting (1991) was the same year his newspaper at the time, the Dallas Times Herald, ceased publication. Herndon, who also covered the Vietnam War for UPI, wrote for several South Florida dailies and late in his career landed at the LA Times, passed away Sunday at age 77.
The reporter’s prize-winning series helped free from prison an innocent man, who had served by 1990 eight years of a 55-year sentence. From the LA Times obituary:
Herndon began investigating the case after a desperate [Michael Anthony] Woten wrote an eight-page letter to the newspaper. He could not have robbed the Dallas supermarket, he said, because he had been hitchhiking near the Texas-Oklahoma line and had caught a ride with a trucker to Missouri. He did not know the trucker’s name, but recalled the CB handle he had used — “Kangaroo.”
Herndon printed up fliers and spent weeks distributing them, by fax and mail, to truck stops across the western United States, urging truck stop operators to post them on bulletin boards. Anyone who knows a trucker with the nickname “Kangaroo” might help establish a prisoner’s innocence, the fliers said.
The story of the search reached a trucker’s magazine, and ultimately a trucker named Don “Kangaroo” Fainter, who verified [Michael Anthony] Woten’s alibi.
He was an amazing journalist: Ray F. Herndon dies at 77; he covered Vietnam War, later worked for the L.A. Times http://t.co/NHFtl1mqnM
— Debbie Goffa (@DebbieGoffa) August 17, 2015
[Screen grab via: umich.edu]