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Longtime Kansas journalist Bob Greer dies at age 88

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, at 7:54 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, at 10:05 p.m.

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Bob Greer, editor of the Protection Press, was the epitome of old school journalists.

He possessively hung on to three manual typewriters, in case one or two would be in a state of repair, and avidly embraced his hunt-and-peck method of typing stories and scratching story ideas on napkins until the last few months of his life. He would brag to friends he didn’t know how to turn on a computer.

Mr. Greer died Saturday at the Comanche County Hospital in Coldwater. He was 88.

Funeral services will be Friday at the Protection school building. A time has not yet been scheduled.

Mr. Greer was born on Jan. 20, 1926, in Fort Worth, Texas. He grew up during the Depression; his family survived by selling peaches door-to-door.

At age 5, he knew he wanted to be a journalist, according to a special four-page section that was printed in the Protection Press in 1998. He was at a wrestling match and watched how journalists sat around the ring with typewriters, writing their stories, and was amazed they could get paid for it. By fifth grade, he’d won a contest to name a school newspaper, calling it the Broadcast.

Mr. Greer lived in many states before settling in Kansas. He wrote for the Boulder Daily Camera and the Lamar Daily News and was a stringer for the Denver Post and Pueblo Chieftain. Other papers for which he worked included the Scotsbluff Star-Herald and the Holdredge Daily Citizen in Nebraska.

In 1959, he moved to Garden City and worked for the Garden City Telegram as a general reporter and sports editor. Shortly after Nov. 15, 1959, when Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, were found murdered, he was the reporter assigned to cover the story and subsequent trial of the killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith.

“He covered the whole case and followed it through,” said friend and Protection Press staff member Dave Webb. “He was granted an interview with Smith and Hickock and told me Hickock was like a vegetable and didn’t respond to him. But when he talked with Smith, they had quite a conversation. Bob said, ‘You know, it was just like talking with an ordinary guy except ... he had helped slaughter four people.’ That always got him, that murderers don’t always come across as murderers.”

Mr. Greer worked at other Kansas newspapers, including the Scott City News-Chronicle and the Dodge City Globe and later for a chain of weeklies. Webb described his friend as a 20th-century circuit-riding writer who covered the bulk of southwestern Kansas with his not-so-reliable Volkswagen Rabbit.

“Chugging from Bucklin to Protection to Meade (with occasional side trips to Buffalo, Oklahoma,” he churned out copy,” Webb said.

Mr. Greer sometimes introduced himself to strangers by saying, “Hi, I’m Bob Greer. I’m short, fat and obnoxious” – a trait editor Dennies D. Andersen, editor of the Western Star, would write in 1998 that he found endearing. “His honesty has never been questioned.”

In 1986, Mr. Greer was persuaded by friends and supporters to start the Protection Press, which now has 800 subscribers. He did it old-style. His way. And often by stuffing his office desk full of napkin notes.

“He was real; what you saw was what you got,” said KAKE TV’s Larry Hatteberg, who featured Mr. Greer as one of Hatteberg’s People on Jan. 9, 2011.

“I loved his old newspaper office,” Hatteberg said Sunday. “It was quaint and a throwback to the newspaper offices of the turn of the (20th) century. He loved his job and people and loved being around them and being a part of the community.”

Last year, to honor more than half a century spent in Kansas journalism, Mr. Greer was the recipient of the Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor Award, presented by the Kansas Press Association.

Mr. Greer is survived by his wife, Wilma, and sons Gene and Don.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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