JAMES V. WYMAN (1923-2014) was the executive editor of the Providence [Rhode Island] Journal. His passion and commitment to extraordinary journalism culminated in the newspaper winning the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for uncovering widespread corruption in Rhode Island’s court system. Wyman led the journal newsroom from the late 1970s. He coordinated the investigation of Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Bevilacqua and documented his close associations with organized crime figures, which led to the judge’s removal from office and a change in the direction of state government.
As reported in Wyman’s obituary in May 2014, Wyman was just sitting down to lunch on November 22, 1963, at 12:30 at the front counter of the Journal’s diner when the telephone rang and the managing editor was looking for him. “The president has been shot in Dallas, let’s go!” Wyman was told. “I rushed back to the newsroom and found it already in a frenzy mode,” Wyman recalled.
Offering a large and diverse archive of letters, documents, business trade cards and news clippings that begin with his early school days, advance to his Signal Corps activities during World War II and culminate with his career as an incredible journalist, though the letters contain no content regarding his career with the Providence [RI] Journal. His school projects open a window into events and characters of the day, such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the “communist hunter” and begin to set the stage for Wyman’s journalistic career. Many of the letters are written to Wyman. We count at least 200 multi-page letters, many with a “free frank” designation, some written from his various army training locations, documents and other material.
Some highlights include his active service in the Pacific Theater in the Signal Corps, letters from soldiers, including Sgt. George A. Bariscillo Jr, Manilla, U.S. A.F.; a teletype news report on the celebrations in the Philippines on the first anniversary of Gen. MacArthur’s liberation; Wyman’s wartime poems. (“He’s a tall, strong, strapping fellow/With sort of gentle ways/Not bred for aimless killing – still -- /Not one for dodging frays.”)
A number of letters to his family are from Camp Lee, VA, and other training camps, where Wyman was in basic training and won a medal for fine marksmanship. In one, he discusses the complexity of learning the teletypewriter. Wyman writes [February 7, 1944] from Washington, DC, apparently during part of his training when he and a friend were singing so loudly at a shelter that they failed to hear an air raid warning. Referring to his singing partner, he wrote, “He’s gone before the top kick and possibly to the old man himself for failing to report for duty during the air raid alarm...in Washington last night. He’ll probably get off ok though with a little verbal blasting. Pete and I spent the raid last night up town in a shelter with a bunch of soldiers, sailors and waves. We were singing so loudly that we didn’t hear the ‘all clear’ signal. Phillips...had to go before the ‘old man’ and got himself a week’s restriction to the post starting today. Not so good but he could be court-martialed and get himself a bunk in the guard house for a few weeks...”
Wyman proved to be a very valuable Signal Corps man.
From Palo Leyte Island on Sept. 6, 1945, Wyman writes about his troops pulling out of Camp Edison. “...Over the mountains by truck, we breezed down...Oakland, across the bridge to the Frisco waterfront. Our convoy came to a stop at Pier 15. What a feeling...An army band was on hand...Red Cross girls serving coffee and cookies...but not even they could cure that funny sensation in the pit of your stomach. Then it was all over in no time. We climbed the gangplank, rifles, full field packs, duffle bags...that stinking hole that was to be our home for nearly a month to come...The following morning, the U.S. Army Transport weighed anchor and slid down Fristo Bay, past Alcatraz, through the Golden Gate...About 5 days out they told us we were bound for Oro Bay, New Guinea...A week later our orders were changed – Finchafen was to be our destination...Our course took us about 300 miles south of Hawaii – down across the equator...We were traveling unescorted. We thought we’d blow our tops if we didn’t see land of some sort...We dropped anchor in the bay at Finchafen excited as all hell at the thought of having dry land...They soon shattered our dreams...Our orders had been changed. The captain had orders to proceed to Hollandia, New Guinea...We had ringside seats at the bombing the Japanese held at Wewak...We dropped anchor in the harbor of Hollandia...They needed Signal troops badly...They had a spot reserved for us...three thousand feet up on the side of a mountain overlooking a broad green valley...We lived here in pup tents for about a week and a half...Several of our teletype radio and signal center teams were called to go into operation...Something big was in the wind. 8th Army was going to Leyte and a few of us – supposedly hand-picked operators – were to go up with them as the forward echelon to set up Signal communications [for] just a week...before we...pulled out for the Philippines...[We] proved [our] worth in the following months and won a citation...
“It was a nine-day trip...to White Beach, Leyte aboard the Australian, and a hair raising at times. We were damn lucky... The Japanese were evidently laying for us and were dead set on knocking our convoy out before we got very far up Leyte Gulf. They did their dandiest too but it wasn’t good enough. We left 8th Army to set up and operate the relay station on the Island and have been here ever since...During the big Lugeon operations, we were handling more traffic than any station in the theatre with direct lines to Brisbane, Frisco, etc...”
Wyman was destined for a journalism career, as evidenced by his writing, which reads like beautiful prose. A small sampling, includes a two-page, TLS, from the island of Leyte, October 16, 1945, to his parents, about natives spinning stories regarding a small town that hadn’t been touched by the Japanese. “It sounded a bit fantastic until a couple of the boys took a few days off and lit over the mountains to see first-hand. At that time, only armed patrols were allowed on that road but somehow, they got through and came back with stories similar to those the natives had been spinning...I joined a group of the boys who had with a couple of “Louies” were about to set out in a two- and a half ton truck—across the mountains.
“We left Palo about seven o’clock and traveled some thirty miles south down the coast before turning west – across a board green valley that led to the pass in the mountains beyond...The coconut palms give way to beautiful stands of mahogany trees and in the distance, jagged peaks purple in the mid-morning sunlight, pierced the clouds...
“Twisting—turning—following dangerous ledges, where one false move might have meant a none too pleasant drop hundreds of feet into the jungle choked chasms far below...An hour later we were falling down the paved main drag of Bay Bay—our objective reached.
“The truck had hardly rolled to a stop before we were stormed by a boisterous throng of natives offering all kinds of trinkets and souvenirs for sale or trade...Inside of fifteen minutes the boys had fanned out and occupied or secured positions in every part of town...
“The people here were well dressed, very friendly and appeared to be far better educated than most of the natives...Curious to know just what the town was like during the Japanese occupation...or the remains of a... launch that lay burned and rotting down on the beach...A very obliging young fellow...gave me all the dope I had wanted. He had lived in the town...and later had worked with our 7th Inf Division before they pulled up Leyte Valley...”
At the end of the war, Wyman was somewhat hopeful but also critical of the government. He wrote, “[General] MacArthur’s formal statement came in over the teletype this morning and it certainly sounds promising. If I can be home for Easter ’46, I’ll be perfectly satisfied.” A few months later, he seems less positive. “...Redeployment camps are jammed to the bursting point and not a sole is moving out. At present, they have a solid two months’ backlog...Congress and the blundering war department have screwed up this so-called demobilization program so much now, we’ll all be eligible for old age pensions if and when we do get out...Even the mosquitos are confused...”
The archive also includes Wyman’s early school papers and friendly letters from his girlfriends, including Viola Bousquet, who would later become his wife. Several early news clippings, which undoubtedly influenced Wyman’s interest in exposing corruption, are included. Wyman graduated from Boston University in Journalism and Public Relations. His school assignments include broadcast news reports which dealt with many contemporary topics.
This is an awesome archive that extends decades into Wyman’s life – which resulted in the culmination of important journalistic efforts and even includes rejection letters, something every journalist regrets from several publications.
Overall in very good to excellent condition with expected wear.
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