The passing of a Louisiana journalism giant, Wiley Hilburn

Wiley Hilburn
Wiley Hilburn

By Robert Mann

Louisiana journalism lost a giant today.

I’m saddened to share the news of Wiley Hilburn’s death at the age of 75.

Anyone who’s lived in north Louisiana over the past 30 years knows that name well. As the longtime chair of the Journalism Department at Louisiana Tech, Wiley not only trained and inspired several generations of journalists, he wrote a widely read column for the Shreveport Times. Wiley was the dean of Louisiana columnists and the most-gifted chronicler of north Louisiana life over the past half-century.

I became Wiley’s friend in the early 1980s, when I moved to Ruston to work for the Monroe News-Star. Although I was a graduate of the rival journalism program at Northeast Louisiana University (now ULM), Wiley took me under his wing and treated me like I was one of his students.

I learned a great deal about life and journalism from him. In fact, I got my first big break in journalism — getting hired as the political writer for the Shreveport Journal — because Wiley vouched for me.

He was a kind man. He had integrity. He was compassionate. And he had a singular voice. I’m very sorry that, today, that voice has fallen silent.

Just last Saturday, I was passing through Ruston, in a hurry, on my way to Homer for a funeral. I told my friends that I must get back to Ruston sometime soon to check on Wiley. I hadn’t seen him in years and knew he’d had serious health problems, but also celebrated the news that he was back in (relatively) good health. That’s why today’s news came as a particular shock.

I’m reminded today how brief this life is and how fleeting are our opportunities to renew old friendships and to simply say, “Thanks for what you did for me.”

If you didn’t know Wiley, I’m very sorry. You would have loved him. He was a great man and mentor to hundreds.

May he rest in peace.

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8 thoughts on “The passing of a Louisiana journalism giant, Wiley Hilburn

  1. Wiley was a first rate journalist and teacher who could turn a phrase with the best of them. I was fortunate to have gotten to know him in the 70s and 80s when I edited a weekly in north Louisiana. He will be missed…

  2. Huge fan of Wiley’s writing. Had the pleasure of meeting him in the early 80’s when I was the Ad Director of the News Star, and he paid Bodie McCrory a visit. He mentored so many young people that went on to have successful journalism careers. Wonder what he thought about what passes for journalism today.

  3. I was so very lucky to have had lunch with Wiley over the holidays. I hadn’t seen him since he’d been home from Little Rock. Of course, he had a column in mind – the topic was public radio and he knew of my affiliation with KEDM-FM. He wanted to meet at The Mohawk – his longtime favorite in Monroe. He was a bit unsteady on his feet but eager to talk everything from journalism to politics to family. It was one of his last published columns. Wiley told his readers how it was public radio that led him to meet his dear Kate. I enjoy many memories of my mentor from these past decades but will cherish our last meeting. Rest in peace, Wiley. -30-

  4. Good job, Bob. I remember those days in Ruston with you at the “competing” bureau.” I also wish I had seen Wiley but it has been several years. I’ve thought of him often!

  5. Bob,
    Thank you for such a fitting tribute to Wiley. I, too, had lunch with on on the agenda just within the next few days. But “it’s all right” (one of the lines quoted at the funeral from one of his columns). He never stood much on ceremony anyway, and he knew how much we all loved him.

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