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‘He was really legendary but not at all intimidating’: Remembering journalist Richard Dudman

Richard Dudman in 2014.
Family photo provided by Bill Freivogel
Richard Dudman in 2014.

Earlier this month, longtime journalist Richard Dudman passed away at the age of 99.

Dudman led the Washington Bureau of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1969 to 1981. In 1970, he was captured in Cambodia while reporting and held for 40 days. He wrote about the Kennedy assassination, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers and more.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the life of Dudman with Bill and Margaret Wolf Freivogel, two people who knew him well.

Bill and Margaret Wolf Freivogel
Credit Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio
Bill and Margaret Wolf Freivogel

“We had this crazy idea that we proposed to him of sharing this job in Washington,” Margaret explained.

Dudman accepted the proposal after consulting with a trusted friend and that decision led to the Freivogels joining the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Washington Bureau in 1980, a job that allowed them to raise their four children the way they wanted.

“He was really legendary but not at all intimidating,” Margaret said. “Always very encouraging, supportive and excited about what his reporters were doing.”

“He led by example,” Bill explained.

The example was such that journalists should be eyewitnesses to events and report the facts as they know them to be true.

“He was an honest reporter and he believed in the power of that,” Margaret said.

Among those surviving Dudman is his wife, Helen, who the Freivogels described as a ‘story in and of herself’ but as someone who also gets much credit for his safe return to the United States after having been captured in Cambodia.

“He thought that Helen had sent so many messages to the North Vietnamese and their intermediaries, that Dick was definitely not a CIA agent, he really was a reporter,” Bill said. “I think Dudman thought that his wife’s many letters had had a big effect.”

“He loved to recall how when they were captured in Cambodia that he had remarked to his two fellow reporters, ‘if we get out of here alive, we’ll have a hell of a good story.’”

Bill Freivogel is a journalism professor at SIU – Carbondale, publisher of the Gateway Journalism Review and  frequent guest on St. Louis on the Air’s monthly Legal Roundtable discussion

Margaret Wolf Freivogel is the former Editor of St. Louis Public Radio and a former reporter and editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.