The Chicago Syndicate: R.I.P. Wishes for True-Crime Author Edward W. Baumann
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Friday, November 09, 2012

R.I.P. Wishes for True-Crime Author Edward W. Baumann

Edward W. Baumann, a prolific reporter and author of true-crime books, worked at five Chicago-area newspapers over a career that spanned nearly four decades.

Mr. Baumann's specialty was covering crime, from trials and executions to the exploits of the Chicago Outfit. Often working with Tribune reporters John O'Brien and Ronald Koziol, Mr. Baumann's wealth of sources led to myriad front-page stories covering the city's underworld.

"He covered the rough-and-tumble life down in Chicago," said Harlan Draeger, a former reporter for the Chicago Daily News and the Sun-Times. "And he really dug into the history and spirit of the newspaper, during the glory days of newspapering in Chicago."

Mr. Baumann, 86, died Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the home of stepdaughter Lisa McCammon in Paxton, Ind., said another stepdaughter, Leslie Ferraro. He had been suffering from a blood disorder and heart disease, Ferraro said. He was a lifelong resident of Kenosha, Wis.

Edward Weston Baumann attended Bradford High School in Kenosha and served with the Army Air Forces in the South Pacific during World War II. He then earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin.

He began his newspaper career in 1951 at the Waukegan News-Sun and soon became the Waukegan correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. In 1956, Mr. Baumann joined the Daily News full time, covering criminal courts. He worked on the paper's rewrite desk and was an assistant city editor before joining Chicago's American in 1962. He later became the American's city editor and then the administrative assistant to the publisher of a successor paper, Chicago Today.

"I have very positive memories of him as an editor and a rewrite man," said former American reporter Len Aronson. "He was a very good writer, and he was very much always interested in a good story. And he managed a tumult of rogues at the American. There were more curmudgeons and characters in that newsroom than I've ever met in my life, and he seemed to ride that wave with good equanimity and good humor."

In 1974, Chicago Today was absorbed into the Tribune, which Mr. Baumann joined as a senior staff writer.Mr. Baumann covered a host of high-profile crimes, including ones that were planned but never happened. He wrote a front-page article for the Tribune in 1984 about a mob plot to assassinate former Mayor Jane Byrne for failing to push hard enough for legalized casino gambling in Chicago.

He covered the 1986 slayings of Chicago Outfit member Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael. That same year, Mr. Baumann wrote a detailed analysis of the top 10 Chicago mob figures featured in a celebrated 1976 photo, which authorities seized during a raid of an alleged mobster's home.

The photo, taken at a suburban restaurant, has often been referred to by law enforcement figures as "The Last Supper." Mr. Baumann described each of the 10 figures' fates after the photo was taken, riffing off Agatha Christie's novel "Ten Little Indians."

Mr. Baumann also edited the Tribune's INC. gossip column after the column's founder, Aaron Gold, died. "We always called Ed 'Invisible INC.,' because he didn't want his name associated with a gossip column," said retired Tribune reporter and WGN radio host Kathy O'Malley. "He was the essence of the grumpy old man, but he also was one of the funniest people I have ever met. He had a wonderful sense of humor."

Retired Tribune reporter Michael Hirsley recalled Mr. Baumann as a "very competent, very bright newspaperman" with little ego. "He could be very understated and self-effacing," Hirsley said.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Mr. Baumann also was active in the Chicago journalism community, serving as president of the Chicago Press Club and a director of the Chicago Newspaper Reporters Association. Both before and after retiring from the Tribune, Mr. Baumann and Ray Shlemon prepared the paper's Pulitzer Prize submissions each year.

Mr. Baumann wrote or co-wrote 10 true-crime books, including a profile of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

"I really admired Ed's writing style," Draeger said. "He had a nice, flowing style with a nice, journalistic touch. His books all had that characteristic, too."

Mr. Baumann spent almost his entire career commuting from Kenosha to Chicago, and he once calculated that the miles he rode daily in his career added up to circumnavigating the globe 42 times.

After retiring from the Tribune in 1988, Mr. Baumann freelanced, writing travel articles and crime stories for the Tribune. He also spent 13 years as a volunteer with the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, working as a cowboy, a roustabout and an animal handler.

Mr. Baumann's first wife, Caroline, died in 1975. A daughter, Amy Cairo, died in 2010. In addition to his stepdaughters, Mr. Baumann is survived by his wife, Lenore; a son, Corey; another stepdaughter, Carole Reid; 12 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson.

After private services, a public luncheon is set for noon Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 7104 39th Ave., Kenosha.

Thanks to Bob Goldsborough.

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