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Bob Kearns, the giant on Fifth Avenue

Bob Kearns, who has just died, was intellectually very bright and physically very large. Alex McCallum, then the editor of the Reuters Financial Report, hired him in New York, largely for his expertise and contacts in the oil industry. The year, I’m guessing, was 1969. One of his first serious assignments was to cover the Alaska oil lease sales, then a hot topic on Wall Street, and even in those days, controversial for its environmental implications. Bob, though hardly dedicated to hard work, it must be said, regularly scooped the opposition, then as now the Associated Press and Dow Jones. For the two weeks he was in Juneau, I dare say the beer flowed as copiously as the oil would.

Bob, Alex and I became nightly drinking companions. Our usual haunt was the Pig and Whistle, just off Rockefeller Center, a bar that purported to be an English pub but which, almost inevitably in New York City, was decorated with shamrocks. There we’d finish a long day battling Dow Jones for news beats with a long session drinking Budweiser, a beer renowned for its lack of taste, wondering what kind of pickle Reuters, a newcomer on the American financial news scene, had got us into. Now we know.

Alex McCallum died last year, which makes me the sole survivor of those evenings in The Pig. My abiding memory of Bob is of a giant figure heading up Fifth Avenue at some late hour, head and shoulders above the crowd, somehow stumbling and swaying at the same time, to face the wrath of his wife, Patricia, whom he met when they were both working for Reuters.    

Another good man gone. ■