Ed Pound

SPRINGFIELD - One of the rising stars of the Statehouse pressroom in the era (see accompanying story) had local roots.

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“He was, as far as I see it, the best investigative reporter in America in his prime,” said Taylor Pensoneau, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter who worked closely with Pound in the Statehouse, in an exclusive interview. “And his prime lasted a long time.”

Pound graduated from Affton High School in St. Louis in 1961, a product of a working-class family who struggled to make ends meet. As Pound once said, “a nickel was a big thing when I was a kid.”

“Ed was a classic example of a gritty kid coming from nowhere to make good,” reflected Pensoneau. "In his case, really big-time success.”

“Ed and I were out to save the world,” laughed Pensoneau. “That sounds crazy, but that’s really how we thought. We had different personalities, but we were like-minded individuals, and we wanted to do as much good as possible.”

Pound briefly worked for a paper in Mount Carmel before landing at the Alton Telegraph. There, he established himself as a no-holds-barred journalistic powerhouse, taking on politicians in Madison and surrounding counties.

Ed Pound was a reporter for the Alton Evening Telegraph from September 1963 through May 1970, and demonstrated the tenacious investigative reporting skills that defined his career. He later led hard-hitting investigations for the Chicago Sun-Times as well as the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, and USA Today.

In 1969, Pound was assigned by the Telegraph to Springfield full-time, and became fast friends with Pensoneau. Both shared an idealism shared by other reporters in the Statehouse pressroom.

That same year, Pound joined with longtime Telegraph reporter Ande Yakstis on an investigation that defined his early career. Pound spearheaded an investigation into two Illinois Supreme Court justices who had received stock in the Civic Center Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, prior to issuing favorable court rulings for an officer of that bank.

The story broke on June 11, 1969, and both justices were subsequently forced to resign. Pound and Yakstis were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

“It was also another example of how Ed took no prisoners,” assessed Pensoneau. “He was more than a bulldog in his investigative reporting. He was a pit bull.”

*****

Pound was nominated for another Pulitzer, this time with Pensoneau, for a 1972 investigation into illegal stock sales originating from the securities division of the Secretary of State’s office. The sales were later tied to fundraising for the campaign of Gov. Richard Ogilvie, without his knowledge.

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By then, Pound was writing for the Chicago Sun-Times after a stint with Chicago Today. “Ed led investigations that brought down a number of key people in Mayor Richard Daley’s office,” commented Pensoneau. “It was said at the time that the only one that Ed didn’t nab was Mayor Daley himself.”

The team of Pensoneau and Pound (who were dubbed “P and P” by one official) had different approaches, with the same goals in mind.

“Ed proceeded in a hard-charging manner, sparing no words in his interviews,” recalled Pensoneau, “and I was the ‘velvet glove’ guy, trying to do it in a nicer way. Often, I’d say, ‘Ed, don’t worry, he or she is telling us what we want to know. It’s okay.’” Pensoneau admits it “was a deliberate routine. But it often worked well.”

The investigation ultimately led to an impromptu interview with Gov. Ogilvie in his office. Pensoneau, and especially Pound, pressed the governor with a barrage of questions and facts.

“Ogilvie was a hell of a good governor, the best in modern Illinois political history,” remarked Pensoneau. “As we found out, he didn’t know about the unethical fund-raising.

“But I’ll never forget,” continued Pensoneau. “We were about done and Ed kept pressing, asking once again, ‘governor, are you sure you’ve never heard anything about this scheme?’ Ogilvie reached across the table, placed a thumb and index finger on Ed’s tie, right below the knot, kind of jerking it.

“He said, in a tone leaving no room for debate, ‘Ed, I’m telling you again. I don’t know anything about this,” continued Pensoneau. “It was just one of those moments that leaves you in amazement, that you never forget.” The story became front-page news in both Pensoneau’s Post-Dispatch and Pound’s Sun-Times.

*****

In late 1977, Pound left the Sun-Times to accept a position in the nation’s capital with the Washington Star. Almost immediately, he launched an intense investigation against U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia, which revealed a litany of questionable financial dealings. The investigation earned Pound yet another nomination for a From there, Pound excelled at a string of high-profile reporting positions, including the Washington bureau of the New York Times (1979-82), Wall Street Journal (1982-93), U.S. News and World Report (1993-97, 2001-07), USA Today (1997-2001), and National Journal (2007-09).

“Big-name government officials in Washington would tremble when they saw Ed coming down the hall,” said Pensoneau. “He was simply that relentless. Ed was, clearly, the best and most feared investigative reporter in Washington.”

In 2013, Pensoneau spent a weekend at Pound’s home in Rockville, Md., while researching his autobiography, Reporting on Life – And People Along the Way. The two old friends spent the time reminiscing in their usual, laser-focused style.

“I arrived on Friday, and on Saturday, we spent the entire day in his kitchen, talking in our pajamas until 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” laughed Pensoneau. “We didn’t even want to take the time to get dressed. Ed’s wife, Eileen, kept feeding us coffee and doughnuts, and we just sat there, talking about everything. It was one of the great days of my reportorial life.”

Pound died at his Rockville home at age 77 on July 25, 2021. The poor kid from the suburbs of St. Louis had become the greatest bulldog reporter the nation had to offer.

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, Ill. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or ilcivilwar@yahoo.com.

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