J Lloyd Boles Sr., an investigative reporter who was nominated by newspaper management for a Pulitzer Prize for his 1970s probe of statewide welfare abuses, died Saturday September 1, 2009 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, his son said. He was 86.
The newspaperman worked for the Oakland Tribune from 1952 until his retirement in 1985. He won several awards for stories on a hunt for murderers in Northern California and an investigative series into statewide welfare abuses.
"He worked hard, he loved people and he would try to help them," said his wife, Mary Boles, 78, of Reno. "Many times in covering a story he would see someone in need of something and he would make sure they got help. He was very proud of his job as a reporter."
After the series on welfare fraud, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan wrote him a letter thanking him for his investigative work. When Reagan was elected president, Boles Sr. was considered for the position of White House press secretary, his son said.
During his time at the Tribune, Boles and a few colleagues founded the East Bay Press Club, which today is still operating as a nonprofit organization, distributing scholarship money and journalism awards each spring. "He was always real enthusiastic about the news," said his son. "First thing when he'd get up in the morning, he'd read the paper. He had a real
Born in Sayre, Okla., on May 11, 1923, he was the only child of Maeburn Howard Banks-Boles, a divorced single mother. He joined the Navy in 1941, when he was 17, and served as a gunner's mate first class petty officer on the USS Aaron Ward, which was stationed in the East China Sea and other places in the Pacific, his wife said. His ship was hit by six suicide "kamikazes" and two bombs one day, killing 42 of the 363 crew members aboard, his son said. After the war, he graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in journalism and went to work for The Wall Street Journal. A year later he took a job at the Oakland Tribune as an investigative reporter. During his tenure at the Tribune, he also attended San Francisco Law School for about 18 months, his family said. He did not become a lawyer, sticking with journalism instead.
"I remember he covered the courthouse and was one of the consummate beat reporters," said Oakland Tribune police reporter Harry Harris, who has worked at the newspaper since 1965. "He had his beat wired and broke a lot of important stories. He was an excellent writer and an overall good guy." After his retirement, Boles returned to Reno, where he was raised. He taught journalism for six years at the University of Nevada, Reno, his wife said. A private pilot, he also enjoyed fishing, gardening, photography and reading Western history.
"When he left the Tribune, he went into teaching, and he loved that, too," his wife said. "He also took over publishing the newsletter that his Navy skipper had done. He was a very talented and versatile man." He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Boles; sons J Lloyd Boles Jr., of Dublin, and Elson Boles, of Michigan; daughter Leah Boles, of Castro Valley, several brothers, six grandchildren and one great-grandson.