A veteran journalist, professor and author, Robert M. Knight spent much of his professional life writing about writing.
He died on Tuesday, June 5th at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Mr. Knight was 71.
He wrote three books, most recently Writing Public Prose (Marion Street Press, March 2012). Mr. Knight considered journalism to be excellent training for anyone who wants to write nonfiction for the public. He maintained that one goal of good journalism is to create writing that is crisp, clear and concise.
Born in Ft. Lewis, Wash., on Dec. 2, 1940, he was the son of Lawrence L. Knight, Marian Humphrey Knight and a stepmother, Margaret Michael Knight. He attended 10 grade schools, two junior high schools and two high schools before he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served in California and the western Pacific.
Mr. Knight spent most of his early childhood in Memphis, Tenn.; then in Aurora, Denver and Boulder, Colo. After his enlistment, he graduated from the University of Colorado. At 55, he earned a master’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago.
He began his career at United Press International bureaus in Denver and Albuquerque, N.M., and went on to cover state politics for several years for Santa Fe’s newspaper, The New Mexican, statewide radio and Albuquerque television. Following a yearlong hiatus during which he drove a Chicago taxicab, Mr. Knight worked in advertising and public relations for 10 years before returning to journalism as a freelance writer.
During the 1980s and early 90s, he wrote for more than 40 publications and news services; frequently for the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, Reuters news service and the Washington Post. During that period, he taught at night at Northwestern University. He then was an associate editor and broadcast editor for the late City News Bureau of Chicago. He also served a term as president of the Chicago Headline Club chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Mr. Knight and his wife of almost 47 years, Susan Jan (Guthrie) Knight, lived for many years among some of the warmest people in the Chicago area on the 700 block of S. Clarence Ave. in Oak Park.
They then moved to southern Pennsylvania, where he taught journalism and English at Gettysburg College. When they retired, the Knights became active in local politics. They represented Butler Township on the Adams County Democratic Committee.
He acted in several little theater plays and spent nine years as a “living historian” (costumed interpreter) at the Gettysburg National Military Park, playing the role of Samuel Wilkeson Jr., whose character returned 14 years later to reminisce about the 1863 battle he covered for The New York Times. Mr. Knight’s favorite role was that of Elwood P. Dowd in “Harvey,” which he played in suburban Chicago.
He was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Journalists and Writers, the Washington Independent Writers and the Independent Writers of Chicago. He contributed to the Gettysburg Foundation, the SPCA and the Adams County Land Conservancy.
He is survived by his wife Susan; their daughters Kelly Knight-Douglas and her husband William Douglas of Oak Park, and Leigh Knight-Houda and her husband James Houda of Chicago; a grandson, Stephen Houda; two sisters, Angela Knight of Littleton, Colo., and Leslie Lorenz of New Freedom, Pa.; and a brother, David M. Knight of Fort Collins, Colo.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sun. June 5, at Gettysburg College Christ Chapel.