Retired Prof. Tom Duddleston Sr. dies at 96

Feb. 25, 2021


Longtime journalist Thomas C. Duddleston Sr., a member of the UA Journalism faculty in the 1970s who secured the first classroom computer system for the department, died Feb. 24 in Tucson. He was 96.

Duddleston helped mentor young reporters both as city editor at the Tucson Citizen and as a journalism professor.

“In addition to teaching heavy loads at the UA, I accomplished two things of personal satisfaction – getting a master’s degree and starting possibly the first computer programs in a journalism program,” Duddleston said in a 2015 interview with the J-school.

He received a grant from Gannett to buy a small classroom VDT system that he saw after attending conventions of computer newspaper program creators with Clyde Lowery, a former Citizen colleague who was in charge of the Arizona Daily Wildcat newspaper operations.

Duddleston taught editing classes on the system for a few semesters until he returned to the Citizen in 1978 and the department installed a more extensive VDT system for students.

“I guess you might say I liked a job newspapering more than teaching it,” he joked.

After retiring from the Citizen in 1986, Duddleston worked for Congressman Mo Udall until 1991. Besides doing home construction as a family hobby, he wrote a history of Tucson Electric Power Co.

A World War II Army veteran, he also wrote a history of the Tucson VA Hospital. The Veterans History Project interviewed Duddleston in 2004 about his service with the Battery C, 655th Field Artillery Battalion in Mindanao Island, Philippines. (Watch the video.)

Duddleston received a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1949 and worked at the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette, Buffalo (N.Y.) Courier-Express and New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times before joining the Citizen in 1960.

Many of his former colleagues and students praised him in Facebook posts:

  • “He was kind, generous, had high standards and told lots of stories with details about reporting that would help me in my career through the years,” said Russ Hemphill, a 1978 UA J-school grad and managing editor of the Wenatchee (Washington) World. “I've tried to do the same with the reporters I've worked with over the years. I was lucky to have been in his class.”
  • “One of my favorite J-School profs (50 years ago!) and one heck of a newsman,” said Jay Rochlin, a UA School of Journalism emeritus professor and 1973 alum.
  • “He hired me in 1970,” said Sheryl Kornman, a 1970 alumna and Tucson Citizen reporter. “I am so grateful I had lunch with him before COVID. A remarkable life.”

Duddleston Sr.’s wife, Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Duddleston, died in 2018. They were married for more than 70 years and raised five children: Priscilla, Tom Jr., Robert, James and Amy.

Living in Fellowship Square in Tucson, Tom Sr. and Betty spent time with their seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Members of the UA Athletic Department and sports journalists knew Duddleston through his son Tom Jr., the retired sports information director for the Wildcats.

Tom Sr. was “such an honorable and good man,” said author Michael Downs, a 1986 alum and former Arizona Daily Star sports reporter.

“He was an inspiration to so many of us,” added Jay Gonzales, a 1980 alum and former Star sports reporter.