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Lockwood remembered

'Woody' left his mark on journalism in S.D.

Veteran San Diego journalist, historian and raconteur Herbert Watson Lockwood died Sunday at the age of 91.

The man, affectionately known as "Woody," left his mark at two local papers, including The Daily Transcript, with his legendary story telling and wealth of knowledge.

"The phrase most heard around the office was, 'Ask Woody,' " recalled former Transcript editor Bob Witty, who hired Lockwood in 1973 as part of a revamping of the paper's newsroom.

Lockwood collected numerous journalism awards during his 40-plus journalism career, including the San Diego Press Club's highest honor, The Herald Keen award.

He also had an award named after him -- "The Woody Award, for wit and wisdom in journalism" -- by the Society of Professional Journalists.

"He was a very influential guy," said Carl Larsen, former president of the San Diego Press Club. "He was a mentor to a lot of people. His being around that long was a testament to the work he did."

Lockwood began his career as a copy editor for the old Pacific Beach Sentinel in the 1950s.

He then became the editor of the Independent Newspaper, where he wrote a weekly column, "The Skeleton's Closet." The columns were a humorous, albeit factual, look at San Diego's history that were later compiled into two books.

He joined The Daily Transcript as one of the first hires by Witty, who was charged with reshaping the paper's newsroom.

Already a seasoned journalist, Lockwood was about twice the age of his colleagues, constantly regaling them with stories from his youth.

One of his favorites was describing the day he saw Charles Lindbergh land his historical solo transatlantic flight in Paris.

As former colleague Michael Kinsman remembers hearing it, Lockwood was traveling throughout Europe with his mother when the two got snarled in massive traffic jam in Paris. A plane, which turned out to be Lindbergh's, flew overhead and everyone was cheering.

"I remember thinking, 'Wow, this guy has seen a lot of history,'" said Kinsman, who worked at the Transcript from 1979-81.

"He'd had so many different life experiences that reporting just seemed like a natural for him. You never knew which way he was going to look at a story. He was kind of quirky in that regard."

Prior to his journalism exploits, Lockwood owned a safari business in Africa and pursued writing and acting in Mexico, where he met his wife, the late Helen Elizabeth Carson, a former model.

"It all lent a certain sophistication to his writing," Witty said. "He was a superb interviewer."

According to Witty, some of Lockwood's best work came while covering the trial of financial maven C. Arnholt Smith, who owned the San Diego Padres, the Westgate Plaza Hotel and U.S. National Bank.

Smith was charged with fraud in connection with the failure of U.S. National and the Westgate.

Lockwood filed daily reports, creating an engaging narrative using quotes and details from the trial.

"It was very readable," Witty said.

Lockwood covered the courts at the Transcript, engendering fans among the judges and attorneys in town. He retired in the early 1990s at the age of 75.

After retirement, he traveled to Europe to hunt down information for the Lockwood family tree, which he compiled into a book.

Kinsman, who remembers Lockwood spending his off time prospecting for gold in the desert, described Lockwood as a great friend with a sense of humor who loved to tell stories.

Lockwood was born July 10, 1917, in South Orange, N.J. The youngest of three children, he moved to Norfolk, Va., graduating from Episcopal High School and attending the College of William & Mary. He was a staff sergeant during World War II.

He is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Foster, and son-in-law, Ronald Foster, both of Fairfax, Calif.; granddaughter, Devon Foster, of Arcata, Calif.; nephew, Col. Fielding Tyler, of Virginia Beach Va.; and step-daughter, Brooke Anderson, of San Francisco; as well as many great-nieces and nephews.

"He was a true original, a terrific dad and wonderful friend," Elizabeth Foster said. "He was funny and kind, talented and smart. He was one the most interesting -- and interested -- people I have ever met. He never stopped asking questions. I admire him for living the life he wanted. He is my hero."

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