Oregonian editor was with woman, 23, before he died

Former Oregonian staffer Peter Carlin sent this email on Monday:

The Oregonian’s longtime editorial editor Bob Caldwell, who was city editor for eight years before that and a real old-fashioned, kick-ass journalist in every respect, died of a heart attack on Saturday. The O won its Pulitzer for editorials under Bob’s guidance. He was a great guy, a fantastic editor and funny as hell.

Bob Caldwell

The Oregonian’s story said Caldwell “was known all over the building for his big smile and a bigger laugh” and that “more information will be published as it becomes available.”

That information came late Monday. From Carlin:

Holy shit, there’s this too on Bob Caldwell’s death. It just broke on Oregonlive.

The headline on the link he sent was: “Bob Caldwell was with 23-year-old Tigard woman when he went into cardiac arrest.”

The story said the woman called 911 after 63-year-old Caldwell started coughing and then was unresponsive after a sex act. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

“The woman told deputies she met Caldwell about a year ago at Portland Community College,” the Oregonian reported. “Caldwell, she said, knew she didn’t have much money, so he provided her cash for books and other things for school in exchange for sex acts at her apartment. Caldwell had not given her money Saturday, she told deputies. They decided against pursuing prostitution charges.”

The paper told readers: “The Oregonian previously erroneously reported that Caldwell had been found in his parked car on Saturday, based on information from a family friend.”

Carlin sent this at 12:55 a.m. CT Tuesday:

I’m just hoping there’s still room to discuss the guy’s work. However seamy his end, he was a fantastic newsman and one of the real gutsy, honest guys out there. Used his authority to bring up generations of journalists. Fought for good things at the paper and in the state. I hate to think all that gets ignored because of his gothic, and admittedly disturbing, end.

Caldwell is survived by his wife and three daughters.

* Caldwell was with 23-year-old woman when he went into cardiac arrest
* First story: Robert Caldwell, editorial page of the Oregonian, dies
* Bob Caldwell: A life in journalism
* “His heart and soul was in newspapers from the beginning,” says his mom



  1. Bart Schneider said:

    He lived & died from his big heart. Will not be forgotten for his legacy of journalism & freedom. Let he who …. cast the first stone.

  2. Mark said:

    Hey, at least the guy was having fun when he went out..

  3. Anonymous said:

    Why is the prostitution angle being played up? He paid for housing and schooling. In any other case, she would be called a mistress.

    Frankly, if this is prostitution, then every cohabiting couple is committing that crime.

  4. Mary Duan said:

    Bart, this is in no way casting a stone because I believe consenting adults can do whatever the hell they want. But it’s too bad his wife and children are now dealing with the aftermath of his behavior.

  5. Carol said:

    Anonymous – I must have missed out because in any cohabitating relationship I’ve been in, we’ve each brought equal finances to the table. In no way was I ever paid to sleep with a partner. You must have some interesting relationships if you think this is typical of “every cohabitating couple.”

  6. Sid said:

    All in all, a good man and a good journalist, but everyone who ever worked with him knew he was a playa.

    You see, Portland is like Mayberry, only with worse cops and better weed, so everyone knows everyone else’s stuff.

  7. Lee Quarnstrom said:

    Kudos to the Oregonian for publishing the facts. Let’s hope they did it for journalistic reasons, not so they can pat themselves on their collective backs for “telling it like it is.” And shame on those who think the way the man died has anything to do with how he lived — although in this case I think he went out the way, as they say, he would have wanted to. There are many, many worse ways to die and few as good as this.

  8. TFW said:

    Does anyone belief that young gal was his first dalliance?

  9. Nancy Imperiale said:

    His “gothic and admittedly disturbing” death? Am I missing something? The guy was having sex with another consenting adult. I don’t recall any vengeful spirits or voodoo curses in the piece.

  10. Nancy Imperiale said:

    His “gothic and admittedly disturbing” death? Am I missing something? The guy was having sex with another consenting adult and had a heart attack. I don’t recall any vengeful spirits or voodoo curses in the piece.

  11. Anon said:

    Hey,influential older man offers poor young woman money for sex acts, breaks law, breaks marriage vows while sitting in judgement on people in public life and commenting on them. No story here…

  12. Topsnoop said:

    Well, it’s too bad when anyone dies, but as someone who worked at The O for almost 40 years, I knew Caldwell. I know how he got a job there, how he got promoted, etc. I think he had keen reporter instincts. But once on the city desk, he became a company man and that’s where we parted ways professionally. I reported on sensitive stories that relied on confidential sources whose identities I promised not to disclose. Caldwell demanded those identities to turn over to the paper’s lawyers for public disclosure if there ever was any litigation.

    That was not how I was taught my craft by far better editors at The O than Caldwell or any commentors even worked under since I started there in 1958.

    My take is that Bob was able, but not gold standard.

    And I think his dying the way he did had nothing to do with his journalistic ability; it was sheer hubris.

    Remember, years ago he got popped for DUII in the wee hours by Mary’s Club and told a story the cops didn’t buy. My dad used to tell me in my teens, “Son, you don’t live and learn, you just live.” Maybe that explains Bob.

    I’m sure there are others out there who will be far more gracious…but I can’t forget he was willing to disclose the IDs of sources I’d promised would never be identified.

    And I’ve heard he was having problems with internal politics…but that’s work; the activity that apparently killed him was play.

    And to stir the pot one more time, my granddad used to tell me many years ago, “Son, if you have to pay for it, you don’t deserve it.”

    Further, I saith not.

  13. niceoldguy said:

    Topsnoop: I worked there part of your time, and I do recall many discussions about named and unnamed sources, usually saying unnamed sources must be identified to editors, and that a reporter did not have the authority to make a deal on behalf of the paper. I am pretty sure that was the policy before Bob got there, to my certain knowledge it was the policy as of 1975. It may have changed later.

  14. Tex Lovera said:

    What a disgusting little man…