Thursday, April 23, 2009

From Larry Thomas

Such a pro, Jerry was more interested in getting information than getting scalps. It made him more effective, more valuable, and more trusted.

-- Larry Thomas

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From Nancy Burt

In my mind's eye, Jerry is always wearing a raincoat and is right in the middle of the action. He was one of the most genial men I have ever met and yet absolutely determined to get whatever story he was after. He was a very good reporter and a wonderful human being.

-- Nancy Burt

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Bill Endicott

One of the most amazing things about Jerry was that he truly loved covering the Legislature and managed to do it with grace, style and toughness, while still staying friends with many legislators. Quite an achievement and almost impossible to believe in this day of adversarial and sometimes bitter relationships between politicians and reporters. When I first knew Jerry as a colleague in The Times’ Sacramento Bureau, I thought he surely must be a Notre Dame graduate, he was such a fan of the Fighting Irish. I was surprised to find out he was not, but it pleased me no end to be able to tell him recently that my son had taken a buyout at The Bee and moved to South Bend and was working in the music department at Notre Dame. Jerry’s first question was to ask if he got season football tickets as a perk of the job. He was one of a kind and will truly be missed.

-- Bill Endicott

Monday, April 20, 2009

From Dave Lesher

I have many memories of Jerry, but one of the best is also one of the first. When I moved to the LA Times Sacramento bureau in 1994, Jerry took me around the Capitol for a round of introductions and a backstage tour filled with colorful, historic and even shocking stories from his decades in the building. When we got to Speaker Willie Brown’s office, Jerry walked right past the lobbyists waiting on couches, waved hello to the receptionist and marched into Willie’s office with me in tow. It was clear that Jerry was more than just a reporter in that building, he was a formidable part of the institution. Reporters always have a privileged seat in a place like the Capitol. You get to know the personalities by sharing the long hours and travel as well as witnessing the amazing victories and the painful defeats. Sometimes you talk about your kids or sports or whatever. Jerry was having those experiences and relationships before some of the newer staff and legislators were born. Some who work that close to the sausage factory for a long time develop a crusty cynicism. And perhaps that’s where Jerry was so unique. He clearly had as much excitement and love for his work on his last day at The Times as I did on my first. When Jerry retired from The Times, I moved into his old desk and when I was pounding on his old keyboard on deadline, I often thought about how many times he did the same thing and how much he enjoyed it every time.

-- Dave Lesher

From Donna Wetterer Pane

What a great guy; I will miss him even though it’s been awhile since I’ve seen him. I knew him, of course, as a reporter at the Capitol all those years but we also shared a night class together at Sac State. It was a group 3 class called “The Film” and I think we both took it because we thought it would be easy. It was the hardest thing and we both hated it. Sat next to each other the whole semester laughing. Miss you Jerry.

-- Donna Wetterer Pane

Friday, April 17, 2009

From Doug Willis

For a half-dozen or so years, Jerry was president and I was vice president of the Capitol Correspondents Association. Since capitol reporters loathed Association meetings, just about everything the Association did was delegated to a committe of two, Jerry and me.

Whether it was protesting a closed meeting, considering the credentials application of a dubious "reporter" or anything else, Jerry and I almost always disagreed. But I can't remember ever getting mad at each other. Jerry was too likeable and friendly for that to ever happen. Furthermore, it was really just an elaborate game. Whoever spoke first expected the other to disagree, and we always reached a friendly agreement.

I will miss Jerry's fun approach to life. The Capitol never had enough people in it who really enjoyed life. Sadly it now has one fewer.

-- Doug Willis

From Tom Paegel

A long, long time ago when I was a very shaky "cub" working nights in the city room, I remember having to take something we used to call "dictation" from Jerry on deadline after a very late legislative session. At the time I wasn't the fastest typist and wasn't all that familiar with the names and issues he was reporting on. His calm and KIND demeanor throughout what was a big deal and bigger ordeal for me what with night city editor Glenn "Bones" Binford staring over my shoulder, was something I never forgot, especially the fact that when he came to town he went out of his way to introduce himself to me. Jerry was a true pro and a gentle man through and through.

-- Tom Paegel

From Claudia Luther

Jerry took me around to all the legislative offices when I first arrived in the Sacto buro in 1979 -- he was the kindest, sweetest man and taught me so much about finding my way around the Legislature. I always felt I could go to Jerry with any question or problem. I feel really saddened to hear of his passing. My condolences to June and all his family -- he was so proud of each and every one of you.

-- Claudia Luther

From Tracy Wood

Aw, nuts. Hadn't talked to Jerry in years but somehow assumed he always would be in Sacramento, gently and humorously advising all associated with state government--legislators, staff, the governor and lobbyists--as well as news colleagues. Jerry helped me learn how to cover the Capitol and he was one of the most decent people in the business, a true professional. I'll miss knowing he's in Sacramento, but I bet he and Squire Behrens--the press corps "deans"--will be watching from some empyrean news room, with laughter, wise cracks and affection.
-- Tracy Wood

From Carol Benham

Jerry was my friend, colleague and classmate.

As Deputy Press Secretary to Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy, I came to appreciate Jerry's lack of interest in endless political insider musings and his insistence on getting to the facts and getting them straight. He would often charge into the press office like a mad bull and bark questions with a bit of bluster. By the time he left, both of us would usually be laughing.

When we instituted weekly press "availabilities" with McCarthy, it was Jerry's voice that would end the session with "Thank you, Mr. Speaker" with near perfect timing.

In the late '70s, Jerry and I took some courses together at CSU, Sacramento in the evenings. Jerry's personal life was in upheaval at that time and sometimes we'd go for a libation after class. Jerry's was always a J&B neat with a water back.

Our professor in a communications studies course sometimes pitted Jerry and I against each other in class, knowing we both worked in the Capitol. Once Jerry and I were selected to compete against each other to persuade a group of fellow students of the merits of our proposal. I remember wanting to win but feeling that I shouldn't prevail over the Dean of the Capitol Press Corps. We both got an A.

Jerry, it was an honor and a pleasure — A+

-- Carol Benham

From Deborah Pacyna

Jerry was such a kind-hearted person. At the time, he was one of the few print folks who actually acknowledged and talked to television reporters!

-- Deborah Pacyna

From Phil Perry

From the fat pencils to his tooling around in his hot-rod black Camaro, Jerry constantly proved that to enjoy life you had to follow your own course. Back in my press secretary days, Jerry was my favorite journalist to talk with. It wasn't that he was going to take my spin (as weak as it was), but that he was just such a great guy to talk with and had such great stories to tell.

He was just a plain, straight-up, good guy...

-- Phil Perry

From Bill Cavala

Jerry never hid his opinions. Held himself and his colleagues to the same standards he applied to those of us on the dark side. Didn’t have a mean bone in his body. For years his “new laws” stories summed up for everyone in the Legislature what they had done – or failed to do – during the latest session. A fine reporter. A genuine person.
-- Bill Cavala

Thursday, April 16, 2009

From Bill Packer

I don't know if this is obit or email worthy, but my memory of Jerry began in 1977. We had a mutual friend, the late Walt Secor (a veteran Los Angeles Times City Hall reporter), who took me under his wing when I was just starting out and I think he did the same for Jerry when he worked in LA for Copley. After I told Walt I was opening a Sacramento bureau for the Daily News, he told me Jerry Gillam was the first person I should introduce myself to. Walt was right. Jerry was great in every way, just as his many friends have written over the past few days. But to me, he was special and I will never foreget and will always appreciate how comforting it was in those early days in Sacramento being under his wing.
-- Bill Packer

From Mike Fallon

It was a surprise to learn, in the sad e-mail postings this week, that Jerry was only a year or so younger than me. For nearly 50 years he always seemed much younger. Jerry had, and kept, a special boyish quality--boyish eagerness, boyish glee. Age, disease and disability did not diminish that.
-- Mike Fallon

From Bill Bagley

Do you recall the Press-Legislative Golf Tournament, sponsored by lobby groups in those pre-Prop 9 non-gridlock days? Free golf, drinks and dinner in those collegial times. Pulitlzer Prize winner Jack McDowell manned the roving cart supplied with ice and "refreshments," One 1967 foursome of equally pitiable players was Jerry Gillam, Willie Brown (his first game) Bill Bagley and Jack Knox. Our average for 18 holes was over 200. Willie demeaned the game as "white man's play," We made him ride on the back of the cart. Jerry really enjoyed the experience.
-- Bill Bagley.

From Sandy Harrison

Friends...I'm sure everyone on this list can say the same thing... But what a huge treasure trove of laughs and funny times I got to have with this really good guy.

The Ron Powlus/Beano Cook rants alone were utter comedy perfection. And there was so much more. What a pleasure and privilege to have had those great times with this terrific person.
--- Sandy Harrison

From Paul Priolo

When I was a relatively new Minority Leader, I had a "press availability" immediately after Speaker McCarthy's weekly press conference. In order to encourage attendance, I provided donuts and coffee. At the second session, Dean Jerry Gillam announced it was not necessary to provide refreshments (spelled "don't try to bribe us").

That was the first of a long list of good advice he offered over the years. His final interview, shortly before I retired, was more like a couple of buddies commiserating over life and I shall always remember it. Jerry was an exceptional journalist and a fine person. 
-- Paul Priolo

From Armando Acuna

Very sad news indeed. He was a great colleague who shared his enthusiasm, energy and Capitol stories - boy, did he have some good ones - with his bureau-mates. I remember the pleasure I had watching him, all aglow, as he walked down the aisle of the Assembly, which honored him for his long tenure as "The Dean." I also remember those big, fat pencils he used. I remember how he loved Notre Dame football and loved to talk about it on Monday mornings. I remember the picture he showed me of when he was a high school basketball player. What I remember most of all, though, is what a great guy he was. 
-- Armando Acuna

From Dan Smith

This is so sad. I agree with everything that has been said. The nicest guy I ever met in Sacramento, but hard-nosed as hell when he needed to be.
-- Dan Smith

From Mark Gladstone

Jerry kept the institutional memory in the Los Angeles Times bureau and shared his knowledge and sources with younger reporters. He was always upbeat. We're not going to see his like again.
 -- Mark Gladstone.

From John Jervis

Jerry's next question often came straight from what was just said....
proving again the great ones are those who listen carefully and then ask.
I can see him now, putting aside the pencil, saying "Do you
mean to tell me...." 
-- John Jervis

From Dan Walters

Jerry was indeed a classy guy, an old school reporter who almost single handedly covered the Capitol for the Times a half-century or so ago. I used to run into him quite frequently at antique shows where he was looking for old lead model soldiers. I helped him track down a few.
-- Dan Walters

From Al Donner

Jerry's ill health didn't alter that wonderful, cheerful personality he was throughout his life. For those of us who prowled the halls of the Capitol with him, Jerry was the most consistently upbeat of us all, realistic about the inevitable compromises we all saw, but less cynical and more consistently positive about life, in and out of the Capitol.
-- Al Donner

From Jeff Raimundo

I am so completely bummed. Jerry will always be "The Dean" to me. No matter how crappy a hand he was dealt, he always responded with grace and optimism and good humor. This is a very sad day.
-- Jeff Raimundo

From Vic Pollard

He was always one of the sweetest, funniest guys I've ever known, despite health problems most of us can't even comprehend.
-- Vic Pollard

From Bill Boyarsky

Thanks for passing on the sad news, Bob. Jerry was such a good friend for so many years.
-- Bill Boyarsky

From Bob Taylor

Too much bad news this year...this was the worst. Big Jer was fresh air, a bright light and joy for our Friday mornings.
-- Bob Taylor

From Caren Daniels-Meade

I will never forget two specific incidences with good ole' Jer.  One was shortly after a new secretary had joined my staff at the Secretary of State's Office and Jerry had come in to get an answer to something.  In his usual way, he was loud and aggressive-sounding, and soon after he'd left my office my secretary had come running in to ask me who that rude man was and why he was yelling at me.  I looked at her, a bit puzzled, and said, "Oh him?  That was just Jerry Gillam from the Los Angeles Times.  He wasn't yelling at me.  That's just the way he sounds.  He's actually a pussycat, and a very sweet man!"

The second more recent incident was one night last basketball season when I still had season tickets to the Kings.  I was at a game and during half-time I was making my usual restroom trip when I noticed a man in a wheelchair a few feet away.  At the time, I was still working for PRIDE Industries, and one thing that had come out of that experience was a new sensitivity and compassion for people with disabilities.  So, instead of ignoring the man in the wheelchair which, sadly, we admittedly all do so often, I decided I was going to look the person in the eye and smile and say hello.  Well, guess who that person was?  It was Jerry Gillam!  He and June were at the game and, ironically, had been seated about 4 rows behind my set of seats.  We hugged and laughed and caught up and it was wonderful to see his continued positive spirit and enthusiasm for life.  

He readily expressed his joy at seeing me and easily told me what a thrill it was to have caught up with me and my life.  I responded in kind, happy for having the chance to show and tell him how I felt about him.

I saw that spirit again at Bob Schmidt's and Bob Fairbanks' 80th birthday party last June.  The man never grew cynical or discouraged, at least not publicly, over his diabetes challenges.  In fact, he'd gotten much more openly emotional over the years and never hesitated to express his true feelings.  I loved and admired him very, very much.  My heart goes out to June and his children and grandchildren.  He was a pillar and a dear friend!

-- Caren Daniels-Meade

From Bud Lembke

That's a real jolt when he seemed to have made a sensational comeback. As you know, I worked with him in the L.A. Times bureau when I first came to Sacramento in 1963. I can't believe he's gone. He was a great guy. Keep me posted on the service.
-- Bud Lembke

From Ron Roach

I am so very sad. Jerry brought so much light and laughter into our lives, even as he battled so courageously and seemed to overcome so much. 
-- Ron Roach

From Bob Schmidt

I know that a year from now, five years from now, when I think about Jerry - and I will - what I will remember first is his laugh. Jerry didn’t have a chuckle or a giggle, he had a laugh, and his whole body shook when he laughed, which was often. Even after he lost his leg.

Certainly Jerry couldn’t have been blamed if he became bitter, or self-pitying, or grumbled out loud “Why me?” when his leg was amputated. He never did.

When he learned that his family had been told that either the leg, which had an infection that could no longer be treated, had to be removed or he would die, and the family had said take the leg, he made sure his family knew he believed they had made the right decision. He liked being alive. 

- Bob Schmidt

From Herbert Sample

Jerry Gillam was a one of a kind. When I started interning at the LA Times Sacramento Bureau in 1981, Jerry became my mentor. It was a bit unnerving for me since Jerry was several inches taller than me and a whole lot more demonstrative.

But he took me under his wing. He introduced me to legislative reporting -- and not the glamorous stuff. He introduced me to stacks and stacks of campaign contribution reports at the FPPC, long before electronic filing, Microsoft Excel and search functions. It was tedious stuff, but it taught me what to look for, who to look for and how detail matters.

He showed me the Capitol, even the dingy temporary quarters of the both houses before they moved into their fancy renovated chambers. He taught me how to cover a legislative session, the people I needed to learn about, the rhythms of the place.

Jerry had a huge heart, a voracious laugh, a smile that was gleaming. I owe him a lot. He was a good man, and I will miss him.

Herbert A. Sample

Remembering our friend Jerry Gillam

Please bring your memories here -- email to -- and I will post. Send photos too. 
-- James Richardson