DALLAS ( Associated Press) — Mike Cochran, who told the stories of larger-than-life Texas characters with his rich and detailed writing during a nearly 40-year career with the Associated Press, ended up serving as a pallbearer for Lee Harvey. Oswald has died while covering the funeral of the President’s assassin. He was 85 years old.
Longtime friend and former Associated Press executive John O. Lumpkin said Cochran died late Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
“He made journalism a calling and often not fun,” said Lumpkin, the Associated Press’s former vice president for newspaper markets and the former Dallas chief of the bureau.
Lumpkin said Cochran was “no one-trick pony”, noting that he covered everything from sports to politics to natural disasters. “One of a kind, for sure. A legend, no question,” said Lumpkin.
As part of the Associated Press’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, Cochran wrote a first-person account How he became a pallbearer for Oswald. With mourners not present except for a few members of Oswald’s family, the task of carrying his coffin fell on journalists covering the funeral.
“I was one of the first people they asked, my answer was just ‘No!’ But ‘hell no! He wrote in the 2013 story. “Then Preston McGraw of United Press International stepped forward and volunteered, and with my top competition for the scoops accepting duty, I realized my error and joined McGraw and the other journalists.”
Cochran, who covered Kennedy’s visit to Fort Worth Just before Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, he wrote that his reporting on the murder continued for years as he interviewed Oswald’s widow and mother, investigated conspiracy theories, and wrote anniversary stories.
On one anniversary, he recalled visiting Oswald’s widow, Marina, at his home. He told her that he was “no longer news” but mentioned his role as a pallbearer and he invited her. Several hours later, they were “still talking and smoking,” he wrote.
“He was very likable and had the quality that a good reporter has: where he wasn’t intimidating at all,” said Barry Bedlan, Associated Press’s director of text and new market products. “Indeed, he brought down your guard, he brought down everyone’s guard with his kind sense of humor and his warm presence that he could ask anyone to tell him anything,”
Over the years, his subjects included Cullen Davis, an oil tycoon who was acquitted of trial after being charged with a shooting at his mansion that killed his 12-year-old stepdaughter and his wife’s boyfriend. Was.
Cochran, known for his descriptive writing, began his 1996 story marking the 20th anniversary of the murders at the Davis mansion with the line: “The killer ‘man in black’ appeared at the distant Cullen Davis mansion, which On a steamy summer night there was a woman wearing a black wig and carrying a .38 revolver.”
He covered flamboyant thug Billy Sol Estes in the 1970s and 1980s, writing about how Estes made millions of dollars in fake fertilizer tanks. Cochran noted in an Associated Press obituary for Estes in 2013, “How many city slayers in New York or Chicago have made a fortune selling phantom cow manure?”
“Billy Soul was a character character,” Cochran told The Associated Press. “I literally spent years chasing him in prison and out of state because he pulled off all kinds of memorable shenanigans.”
Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Cochran grew up in the West Texas city of Stamford and is now a graduate of the University of North Texas in Denton.
He began his career at newspapers in Denton and Abilene before joining the Associated Press in Dallas in 1960 and opening the Associated Press’s Fort Worth bureau the following year. He retired from the Associated Press in 1999 and then worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for five more years.
He also wrote several books about the murder case against Davis, including “Texas v. Davis” and “Cleaty”. which details the life of Clayton Williams, A colorful Texas oilman and philanthropist, whose race for governor in 1990 was derailed after joking about rape and admitting he went a year without paying income tax.
Cochran was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame in 2018. He has won several awards in his career, including Star Reporter of the Year from the Headliners Foundation, the top individual award given annually to a Texas journalist.
“He won a plethora of journalism awards, but he cared more about his readers, his sources, and his friends,” Lumpkin said.
He is survived by his wife Sondra, son John Shannon Cochran, daughter Kendall Arnold, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
His funeral will be held in Fort Worth on January 29.