Remembering Roy Malone

If you got a tip that state police were fixing tickets for big shots and political figures, how would you check it out?

In 1980, I worked on just such a story with Roy Malone, my friend and former colleague at the AP and then the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I didn’t do much work on the story; Malone provided the heavy lifting.

At night, under the cover of darkness, after troopers of the Missouri State Highway Patrol had ended their shifts and gone home, Malone would show up at their front doors unannounced, and tell them he was investigating ticket fixing in Missouri. Slowly with each visit, Malone would gain the troopers’ confidence. He assembled the facts of a story that two higher ups in the police agency were intercepting tickets and dismissing them for the wealthy and well-connected.

The story he developed led to the departures of two supervisory officers in the Highway Patrol.

Malone had become my hero long before that. He was the kind of guy who stuck his neck out for others.

I first met him in 1972 as a colleague in the Associated Press Bureau in St. Louis. The AP had two offices at that time, a day office in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch building, and a night operation in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat a couple of blocks south.

AP reporters working in the tiny, cramped Globe office would have to shout into the telephone while taking dictation because of the deafening noise of a bank of tele-printers that filled the room.

Malone hired an expert from a nearby university to come in and measure conditions in the room–the heat and the decibel levels. With this data he convinced the AP and the Globe management to build a sound-proofing wall between the noisy printers and the reporter’s work space.

Shortly after that, he got transferred to the AP office in the state capital in Jefferson City. He quickly made a name for himself with a story that pointed out how Anheuser-Busch was giving away free cases of beer to legislators–and to members of the press corps.

Malone had become interested in journalism because of the movie “Call Northside 777” in which a reporter, played by James Stewart, proved that a man in prison for murder was wrongly convicted. And much of Malone’s career was aimed at bringing about justice.

Working with Lou Rose, another Post-Dispatch investigative reporter, many of Malone’s stories focused on corrupt politicians in St. Louis city government. Once, when Malone sat down at the supper table, one of his three children asked, “Who did you go after today, dad?”

The Malone-authored story that perhaps got the most attention, which provided the lede of his obituary in Sunday’s Post-Dispatch, focused on the night in 1982 when he became a crime victim. Driving home from a late night shift, he was carjacked by an armed man who shot him three times. Malone survived and identified his attacker, who was convicted and sentenced to two life terms.

In the months that followed the attack, Malone began digging into his assailant’s background, trying to understand how the whole incident developed. He wrote a three-part series about the crime and his feelings. The Associated Press distributed the series across the country.

Malone retired in 2000, and served as a part-time editor of the St. Louis Journalism Review (now the Gateway Journalism Review). Carol, his wife of 54 years, died in March 2017. When I last talked to him, he told me how lonely and sad he was to be without her.

He died of pneumonia March 8 at a suburban St. Louis hospital. He was 80 years old. The headline over his obit said: “Mild-mannered reporter was a tough, dogged professional.”