Dick Wheeler, a veteran member of the Wisconsin Capitol press corps, died early this morning at his Madison apartment. Any reporter or member of the legislature – indeed, almost anyone who works in the Capitol – knew Dick. I was glad to call him a friend and colleague. Over the years I discovered that Dick grew up in a tough Pennsylvania town not more than forty miles from my own dad’s hometown in Ohio. That background was apparent in Dick’s personality: he was every bit the tough “old school” reporter, and he knew the workings of Wisconsin state government like no other. Another veteran reporter, WIBA‘s John Colbert, relied on that expertise when he interviewed Dick on the air last year. Dick managed and edited The Wheeler Report, and over the course of his career I imagine he must have covered hundreds of legislative floor sessions and thousands of press conferences.
Just last week, during the second overnight session by the state Assembly, I was in the Capitol press room well after midnight with Dick and several other reporters and legislative staffers. Dick regaled us with stories from his days covering Ohio news and politics. He rattled off all the Ohio newspapers which staffed bureaus at the Capitol in Columbus, and recalled covering the funeral of Sam Sheppard, the Ohio doctor who served as inspiration for The Fugitive. Dick, who could be a bit irascible at times, always greeted me with a “what’re you up to, big guy?” And he had a mischievous sense of humor: recently in the press room he feigned frisking me for a concealed weapon. Yesterday he mentioned to me that he was tired. Dick Wheeler was 67 years old, and he will be missed.