The first assignment that David Bowes got when he joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 61 years ago was to cover a coroner’s inquest for Maye Trainor, the city’s premier madam and hostess to Babe Ruth when Ruth’s New York Yankees were in town.
In the years that followed he interviewed Dr. William Masters, the sex researcher, reported from a Florida nudist colony as part of cross-country examination of cultural change, traveled around the globe with President Lyndon B. Johnson and was tear-gassed at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Bowes died May 13 at 88. After his years with the Post-Dispatch, he was a vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, an associate editor of the Cincinnati Post, and a contributor to Mid-Atlantic regional magazines.
Bowes, a St. Louis native, earned degrees from the University of Virginia and University of Michigan journalism program. He joined the newspaper as a reporter in 1961, moving to writing editorials in 1967 and serving as a Washington correspondent from 1967 to 1970.
He didn’t always find that his editors wanted to run more risque stories.
Bowes arranged for a rare conversation with Dr. Masters, the acclaimed sex researcher who had been working under cover in the conservative city. When the doctor’s first book was published, the Post-Dispatch declined to acknowledge or review it on grounds that “some readers might be offended,” according to an obituary prepared by his family.
On another occasion, Bowes filed a story from a Florida nudist colony. Bowes had been sent coast to coast to measure cultural change; the headline he chose, given Oh! Calcutta!’s acclaimed run on Broadway, was “Nudism vs. Nudity.” The story was spiked despite its scholarly context.
Bowes was the youngest member of the paper’s editorial board, where he wrote about topics including arms control and disarmament, the seasons of weather, continental Africa, science and medicine, literature, merchant shipping, the Mississippi River lock system and Southern Illinois politics.
Bowes was a specialist in urban affairs journalism, he was cited by the Scripps Howard Foundation for “outstanding editorials that produced results” by saving an historic Cincinnati hillside neighborhood from demolition for an interstate highway. The American Political Science Association recognized him in 1970 for 60 essays written while roving nationally; their insights informed his commentary on city planning, urban design and historic preservation.
He is survived by his wife, psychologist Rosemary Tofalo Bowes, of Washington, D.C.; three children from his first marriage, to Judith Gregory, and two grandsons.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. He formerly was a reporter and editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and U.S. News & World Report. He was a founding member of the St. Louis Journalism Review in 1970. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.