Arthur E. P. “Ed” Wall, a former editor of the Catholic Review from 1965 to 1971 who would later become director and editor-in-chief of what is now Catholic News Service, died Jan. 18 in Orland Park, Ill. He was 94.
Wall, who used A.E.P. Wall as his byline, was remembered by colleagues as a cigar-smoking, hard-working journalist who cared for his employees and sought to keep readers informed about monumental events in the church and society.
When the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965, Wall made sure the Catholic Review was the one archdiocesan newspaper in the United States to get the final documents from the council into print quickly. The Review had published earlier documents from the Council sessions between 1963 and 1965.
“Nobody has ever disputed our claim to be the first to publish the entire text of Vatican II documents,” Wall told the Review in a 2015 interview. “We arranged for the pilot, TWA I think, to bring the last documents with him on a flight from Rome and they were immediately taken to our printer.”
Christopher Gunty, current editor and associate publisher of the Review, said Wall hired him as a summer intern at The Chicago Catholic, where Wall served as editor after leaving Catholic News Service in 1976. Gunty then worked in full-time positions under Wall after he graduated.
“He was a mentor to me and to many others in the Catholic press,” Gunty said. “Since I discussed with him my goal to become a diocesan newspaper editor, he made sure I was well trained to take on the many roles that position entails.”
Gunty became acting editor when Wall left The Chicago Catholic. He called Wall a “prolific writer” with a great memory.
“After Archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin was appointed as archbishop of Chicago, Ed went to Cincinnati, where Archbishop Bernardin then served, for a one-on-one interview,” Gunty recalled. “He lost his notebook in the airport on the way home, but reproduced the interview from memory. To preserve the integrity of the reporting, he didn’t use any direct quotes, but he captured the essence of Chicago’s new leader.”
John McNulty, a Catholic Review advertising representative who started his career under Wall in the late 1960s, called the editor a “genuinely nice person who always looked out for employees.”
“When we had Christmas parties, he didn’t hold back,” McNulty recalled with a laugh. “He treated everyone most generously.”
McNulty said Wall was always concerned about making sure employees were up on the latest technological advances.
In a 1967 presentation to journalism students at the University of Maryland reported by the Catholic Review, Wall said no one can predict where technology will go. He insisted, however, that diocesan publishing has a duty to “offer sound editorial comment and to keep Catholics abreast of developments in the church.”
“Eventually,” Wall speculated, “readers may receive their daily newspapers by way of home receiving sets stocked with rolls of sensitized paper.”
When that day comes, he said, “there is no reason not to fill a few feet of those rolls each week with the output of diocesan journalists.”
In a reflection on his late colleague shared with CNS, Thomas Lorsung, a former reporter and photographer for the Catholic Review and a retired director of Catholic News Service, noted that when Wall arrived at what was then known as National Catholic News Service, the daily report was mimeographed and mailed to clients.
Wall established a wire connection with clients, Lorsung recalled in an email to CNS.
“Ed was the first head of CNS to negotiate a contract with The Newspaper Guild.” Now called The NewsGuild, the union still represents CNS reporters and photographers.
It turns out Wall was no stranger to mimeographing the news report – he started out doing this for his own neighborhood papers in the 1930s. But he easily adapted to new technology and was producing his own online paper in the 2000s. As a boy, he set type by hand using his Kelsey printing press and later became a desktop newspaper publishing enthusiast.
Lorsung said Wall “knew everybody who was anybody ‘in the day,’” from then-Josephite Father Phil Berrigan of the Catonsville Nine to Spiro Agnew, former Maryland governor and later vice president.
Lorsung was hired by Wall at Catholic News Service, “so I got to witness this firsthand” these many contacts Wall had.
“Prominent names from Ed’s Rolodex” included Cardinals Joseph Bernardin and John Cody of Chicago, and Cardinal Lawrence Shehan in Baltimore; Cardinal John Wright and future Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh; Cardinal John Foley of Philadelphia.
“He got to know Archbishop Pio Laghi, papal nuncio to the U.S., having had lunch with him in Israel and Argentina. Cardinal Shehan told Ed that Pope Paul VI read the Review. He was friends with Jesuit Father Thurston Davis, longtime editor of America magazine. He interviewed controversial theologian Father Charles Curran” at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
Lorsung noted that in retirement, Wall promoted awareness of multiple system atrophy, a debilitating disease with which Wall lived daily. He also “designed and mailed creative Christmas cards until recently,” Lorsung said.
Wall was born March 12, 1925, in Jamestown, N.Y. He was baptized in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Celoron, N.Y.
While attending the University of Miami, he became a Miami Herald editorial clerk. He volunteered for the Marine Corps at 17 and was given a medical discharge a few months later. He returned to the Herald and was soon promoted to reporter and copy editor. One of his assignments was to write a weekly mini-newspaper for overseas military personnel.
His journalistic career included service as managing editor of The Honolulu Advertiser, editor of the Hilo (Hawaii) Tribune-Herald, Sunday editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
His newspaper jobs over his long career included editor of the Central Florida Episcopalian; rewrite reporter for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph; copy editor for the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram; reporter for the Peoria Journal; and editor of a national labor paper.
He was author of “The Spirit of Cardinal Bernardin” and “The Big Wave,” a contributor to “If I Were Pope,” and editor-in-chief of the American Catholic Who’s Who.
Wall also was active in community affairs, having been chairman of the lay board of Marianist-run Chaminade University in Honolulu; founding chairman of the Hawaii State Educational TV Commission; secretary of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association; trustee of St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore; and a director of Our Sunday Visitor and Noll Printing Co.
He also was on the board of directors of the Florida Catholic newspapers, serving the Miami Archdiocese and other Florida dioceses. He also was president of the International Federation of Catholic Press Agencies, a member of the board of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida and a life member of three organizations — NAACP, International Order of St. Luke the Physician and Society of Mary.
He spent his last years in Orland Park, with his daughter and son-in-law. The most wonderful title he ever received, he said, was “Grandpa.”
Catholic News Service contributed to this story.
Email George Matysek at gmatysek@CatholicReview.org