Richard Winters Hatch II, 85, reporter who covered 1960s race riots and is survived by ‘a host of cats’

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Richard Winters Hatch II
Richard Winters Hatch II

Richard Winters Hatch II, news journalist, television producer, storyteller and fisherman, died Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in Oak Island. He died of pneumonia at the age of 85.

As director of news and public affairs for the Center for Public Television at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, he produced and hosted award-winning shows, including “North Carolina News Conference” and “Stateline.” He produced nightly news of the N.C. General Assembly and moderated gubernatorial debates.

The documentaries he produced include “Troublous Times” and “The First Civil War” for the North Carolina bicentennial celebration. His Globe Watch series for public television, which took him to Indonesia, Scandinavia, Greece and Turkey, include “The Finnish Solution,” “A Stake in the Land” and “Paradox in Paradise.”

In the 1960s as a reporter for the wire service United Press International, he traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, and wrote about the race riots. As Miami bureau chief for UPI, he covered numerous rocket launches at Cape Canaveral and remembered being forced to miss an Orange Bowl game to cover the Cuban Revolution. Wicked fast on his portable Smith Corona, he said the trick to having his football and stock car racing articles carried nationwide was to locate the nearest pay phone and be the first to call in the story.

Richard was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1929. He met his father only once in his life at age 7 or 8 and threw up. His first job was putting sticks in Popsicle molds at the local military base’s ice cream parlor and then he moved on to the cramped job of setting pins at the bowling alley.

He said he always wanted to be a journalist and his strong curiosity never waned throughout his life. A lifelong democrat, he said when FDR brought electricity to their Mississippi delta house his political affiliations were set.

He worked his way through night college at Georgia State University in Atlanta and received his bachelor’s degree in 1955. While reporting for the Atlanta Journal he was drafted into the military and served in the Counter Intelligence Corps for the U.S. Army as a special agent in Germany from 1952 to 1954. He worked as a reporter and manager for UPI from 1955 to 1975 in Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina.

He settled in Raleigh and raised a family while working for public television. He chaired citizen civic committees and spent many evenings at Theatre in the Park acting in numerous productions, including his yearly stint as the narrating Lamp Lighter in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

He and Betty Jones, his wife of 58 years, retired to Oak Island in 1985 where he fished, worked for AARP and tended to his Zinnias. Yoga goers at the Oak Island Recreational Center were careful not to touch his spot in the exercise room. He visited Key West, Florida, where two of his sons operate restaurants, frequently during the last 30 years. At Blue Heaven, patrons still return and say, “the food was great but is the owner’s father around?” He worked The Citizen and New York Times crosswords every morning at Blue Heaven, insisting that only capital letters be used and leaving bigger tips for waitresses than waiters.

He is survived by his wife, Betty; children, Richard, David, Danny and Sally; six grandchildren; and a host of cats.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Any memorial gifts should be made to Southport-Oak Island Animal Rescue or Adopt and Angel.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Peacock Newnam & White Funeral and Cremation Service.

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