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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Public Service in Radio Journalism


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Tuesday, July 3, 2007
SDX Awards: Public Service in Radio Journalism

Winner: Staff, WBBM-AM Newsradio 780

by Jim Poyser

Judges said, “Coming up with the idea to trace the next of kin of people whose bodies go unclaimed in Cook County, Ill., was brilliant. So was the execution.”

Every month, Cook County digs a new hole and buries

its unclaimed dead at a south suburban cemetery in an unmarked mass gravesite. In most cases, they have died alone in the world, either with no family or no money. Usually, they have neither.

But in every case, they have a story, and last fall and into winter, WBBM-AM Newsradio 780 starting telling the stories of the unclaimed.

Clyde Mize was a chef. He died in a drug house and was found by two prostitutes, police said. His body was unclaimed, and police came up empty when they tried to track down his family using a last known address, which corresponded to a parking lot. Newsradio 780 noticed the parking lot was across the street from a homeless shelter. They visited the shelter, found people who knew Clyde Mize, and ultimately found his daughter, Amia, and his son, Clyde Jr., an attorney in Atlanta. They arranged a memorial service and a proper burial. More than 80 people attended.

Alphonso Knox served in the Korean War and kept his papers in his room on Chicago’s West Side. His housemate said the day Knox died, he told the investigators who came to the apartment house that Knox was a veteran. Yet when the medical examiner asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to check their files, they sent Knox’s name back with the notation “No Record.”

Newsradio 780 discovered Knox’s honorable discharge, just days before he was to be buried in an unmarked, indigent’s plot. Instead he was buried with honors at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

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