Mr. Stafford died of leukemia on Monday (March 19, 2007) at his home
in Springfield, Va., according to a son, Michael.
The 1980 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting was awarded to him and
fellow reporter Bette Orsini for their investigation of the Church of
Tensions were especially high when Mr. Stafford and Orsini published
their work. Times executives and reporters, notably Orsini, had been
repeated targets of church attempts at intimidation and harassment.
Then, late in 1979, a federal judge in Washington unsealed 20 boxes of
records seized in an FBI raid on church headquarters. Mr. Stafford
used the confidential files in writing his series.
"Charles Stafford was a master craftsman of the big story," said
Eugene Patterson, who was a Times editor and chairman when Mr.
Stafford and Orsini won the Pulitzer.
"Reporters fed their patches to him, and he wove the tapestry,"
Patterson said Tuesday "He was a strong, fine man, and it rang in all
it he wrote."
Other colleagues echoed Patterson.
"He was one of the best reporters I ever knew," said Mike Moscardini,
assistant North Suncoast editor and a Times editor since 1972.
"He had a very graceful and mature tone to his writing," said
Moscardini, a former national editor who supervised Mr. Stafford.
To Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan, he was "the consummate
"I remember one of the political conventions - I think it was in
Atlanta and that would make it 1988 ... when the speeches were running
late and we were drawing ever closer to deadline," she said. "Charlie
was writing the lead. He had to do it in such a hurry. I couldn't
believe it would possibly make sense, and there it was in the morning
paper ... like poetry ... you would never have guessed how rushed he
had been to produce the lead story of the day from a makeshift press
box on the floor of an overcrowded convention."
The 14-part Scientology series recounted the turbulent history of the
Church of Scientology since its secretive arrival in Clearwater in
The series earned the Times its second Pulitzer, one of journalism's
highest awards. The first honored a reporting team headed by Martin
Waldron in 1964.
Commenting on the Times' expose, the Pulitzer Prize board noted:
"Four years went by before the series began, four years of suit and
countersuit, harassment, smearing of Mrs. Orsini's husband's
reputation, rifling of files, fake accidents and finally the trial in
Washington that brought convictions and sentencings (of nine
Scientologists on Dec. 7, 1979)."
Mr. Stafford's years in newspapers were marked by a talent for making
complex issues clear. He made dry documents sing.
His reaction to winning the Pulitzer was customarily low key:
"Well, I'm a little overwhelmed, you know, and feel a great deal of
pride in having something I did be recognized as being a little bit
out of the ordinary," he said.
His reports on the development of the space shuttle and the first
flight of the shuttle Columbia were honored in 1981. With Fay Joyce, a
Times colleague, he shared the Westinghouse Foundation Science
Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of
A native of Grafton, W.Va., he was a journalism graduate of West
As an Army private first class in World War II, he fought in the Leyte
campaign and the battle for Okinawa.
Charles Lee Stafford reported in his native West Virginia as well as
in Baltimore, New York City and in Tampa for the Associated Press and
for the Tampa Tribune, which made him its Washington correspondent.
He joined the Times in 1968 and retired in 1989.
His wife of 54 years, Alice Kathryn, died in 2003. Survivors include
two sons, Michael F., Burke, Va., and Charles L., Bedford, N.Y.; a
daughter, Kathryn S. Benton, Springfield; and nine grandchildren.
A funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Messiah United
Methodist Church, Springfield.
The family suggested memorial contributions to the church.
Advent Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Falls Church, Va., is in
Information from Times files was used in this story.
[Last modified March 21, 2007, 01:39:53]
© Gerry Armstrong
> 'Master craftsman of big story' dies
> By CRAIG BASSE
> Published March 21, 2007
> ST. PETERSBURG - Charles L. Stafford, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer
> for the St. Petersburg Times and its national correspondent for two
> decades, died at 83.
> Mr. Stafford died of leukemia on Monday (March 19, 2007) at his home
> in Springfield, Va., according to a son, Michael.
> The 1980 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting was awarded to him and
> fellow reporter Bette Orsini for their investigation of the Church of
> Tensions were especially high when Mr. Stafford and Orsini published
> their work. Times executives and reporters, notably Orsini, had been
> repeated targets of church attempts at intimidation and harassment.
I'm extremely sorry to hear that. While I've read bits and pieces over the
years, it's only recently that I've read their report as a whole and
realized what an amazing work it is, especially for the time and right in
what became CoS's neighbourhood--but it still packs a punch today.
Roger's 905k and searchable version:
Here's the original (17.9Meg!)
> Mr. Stafford's years in newspapers were marked by a talent for making
> complex issues clear. He made dry documents sing.
Ron of that ilk.