Hank Walter, Reporter, Speechwriter, Tenor, Poet, Dies at 88
Henry “Hank” C. Walter, beloved Inner Circle member and past president, died Nov. 17, 2016 after a brief illness. He was a day shy of his 89th birthday.
Hank became a member of the Inner Circle in 1956, during Mayor Robert Wagner’s tenure, and served as president in 1963.
Here is more about his life from an obituary prepared by his family:
He began his newsman career at the World Telegram & Sun, starting as a copy boy in 1953 and rising in the ranks to City Hall Reporter by 1963, ensconced in the famed, smoky Room 9 in City Hall, which was reserved for the press. Hank wrote feature articles and two columns, Taxpayers Troubles and Heard Around City Hall, under the name Henry Walter.
In 1962, he became Press Secretary for Robert Morgenthau, during his run for Governor against Nelson Rockefeller. coordinating statewide with reporters, and writing releases and speeches.
In 1963, Hank became the first Director of Public Information of the brand-new NYC City Department of Highways. With Commissioner John T. Carroll, he helped organize the Department, formulate policy and wrote press releases and speeches.
Next, Hank became Director of Editorial Research for WMCA Radio, joining the new, wildly popular WMCA Good Guys top-40 show. Promoted, he became Director of Public Affairs for WMCA Radio and the Straus Broadcasting Group.
Between the songs played by the famous Good Guys disc jockeys, Hank wrote and produced most of the editorials, documentaries, public service announcements and special features, reading many on the air.
He supervised the station’s Call For Action service, where 50 volunteers helped solve the problems of hundreds of New Yorkers each week, a precursor to today’s 311.
He wrote the WMCA Buyer’s Tip of the Day; a daily community bulletin board, What’s Happening; a thrice-weekly ombudsman report, and a weekly interview show, Inside the Issue.
In addition, Hank’s documentaries and editorials won 19 journalism awards for WMCA, They included “An Eye For An Eye,” (death penalty); “Slumlords, Incorporated”; “Buyer, Beware! – Why The Poor Stay Poor,” and a series on migrant housing, with labor organizer Cesar Chavez. Awards included the Edward R. Murrow Documentary Award, the first Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Radio Journalism, and the first Silurian Award for Radio Documentary.
When the station moved over to a talk show format in 1970, Hank became the speechwriter of NYC Comptroller Abraham D. Beame. When Mayor Beame won City Hall in 1974, Hank stayed with him as speechwriter, and was appointed Special Assistant to the Mayor.
In 1978, after Mayor Ed Koch took office, Hank became speechwriter for Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin, retiring in 1989 when he announced his bid for Mayor.
Other affiliations include the Society of the Silurians; the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society, Past President, Trustee and writer of historical articles for it’s newsletter, The Ferryman; the Newspaper Guild of New York, serving as a delegate during the press strike of 1962-1963; a volunteer at Cabrini’s Nursing Home; a member of the Sacred Heart Parish in Dobbs Ferry, serving as Eucharistic Minister and singing in the choir, with his wife of 63 years.
He graduated from St. Henry’s Prep, PA, and next received a Jesuit education at St. Joseph’s University, PA. He then served in the Army during the end of World War II, trained in radio communications.
Poetry lived in the core of his heart and he was a prolific poet, self-publishing in 2015 a small sample, titled “Growing Older”. He was an avid stamp collector, gardener, traveler and historian, and took great joy in the complex beauties of both nature, humanity and God, and in showing and teaching his children about them.
November 21, 1953, Hank married the love of his life, Mary Rita Casey, a fellow graduate student at Fordham University. Mary, who moved to New York from West Roxbury, MA, survives him, and is heartbroken. Hank is also survived and mourned by their eight children: Mary, Paul, Elizabeth, John, Ann, Mark, Catherine and Ruth; their spouses: Rick, Jack, Peter, Jezebel and Kevin; their grandchildren: Cody (and his wife Lori), Rose, Nicholas, Emily, Gabriel, William, Timothy, Claire, Kevin, Andrew and Laura; their great-grandaughter, Josie; and lifelong friends Patrick Barrett and Frank DeFillippo.