Former news correspondent Wayland lost long battle with tuberculosis
In the midst of a cold winter of 1949, with temperatures dipping to 19 degrees, Richard Knight Wayland Sr. succumbed to the disease he had been battling for nearly 10 years. He was 39 years old.
Sent to the Weimar Joint Sanatorium, he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1940 and admitted for treatment from Sacramento on Aug. 28 of that year.
Wayland was been born in Boston, Mass. and after his early schooling, moved to Roswell, N.M. to attend the Roswell Military Academy. There he met and married Ruth Haulenbeck on March 24, 1934. He worked as a motion picture operator and in 1939, moved his family to Chicago. At that time, they had two children – Richard Jr. (still living in Colfax) and Gay Ann.
During the short stay in Illinois, Wayland managed a national tea store.
The following year they came west and settled in Sacramento. He began working for the Retail Credit Association prior to his admission to the Weimar Sanitorium. The family remained in Sacramento, which by then included the youngest child, Judy.
Wayland improved at the sanatorium and was released in December 1941, 14 days after the Pearl Harbor attack. He moved his family to the good climate of Colfax and worked part-time as a motion picture operator and a radio announcer.
In 1943, he found what became his dream vocation. He got on as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union. On Jan. 1, 1945, he added the Colfax Record and the Placer Herald to his list of newspapers. At one point, he was city editor for the Record, working with “Scoop” Thurman, owner of the paper. Wayland added to the local distinction when he was given a by-line throughout the U.S. and Canada with the United Press. His territory covered the Sierra foothills from Tahoe to the valley between Placerville and Downieville.
He was well respected in the trade and, according to comments in the Record by “Scoop,” he had earned the confidence of many officials because he never violated that confidence.
Perhaps the best story of Wayland’s career came in November 1944. Wayland was the first newsman on scene of the fatal wreck of the passenger train Challenger (Colfax Record, Jan. 31, 2013). Wayland quickly surveyed the incident and asked the military medical staff what was needed. He then went to Colfax for help and after securing it, he called in his bulletin to his United Press office. It went national immediately and was Wayland’s first big story. As a result, a Grass Valley Union reporter called him a natural and dubbed him “Walter Winchell Jr.” The nickname stuck for the rest of his short career.
He was also involved in politics and served on the Democratic Party’s county central committee for one term.
However, all this work, sometimes night and day, did not bode well for someone with an “arrested” case of tuberculosis – an infection transmitted by inhalation or ingestion of tubercle bacilli. He relapsed and was readmitted to the Weimar Sanitorium in April 1946. Even the new medication, streptomycin, could not help his case. He remained there for almost three years, until his death on Jan. 13, 1949.
His son, Richard “Dick” Wayland, Jr. and wife, Helen, have been active members of the Colfax community for decades and continue to be a driving force behind the Colfax Area Historical Society.