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David Holwerk, who helped newspaper win Pulitzer, dies at 73

November 24, 2020 GMT

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — David Holwerk, a former editorial-page editor whose decision-making helped the Lexington Herald-Leader win a Pulitzer Prize, has died. He was 73.

Holwerk’s son, Charles Holwerk, told the newspaper his father died Monday at home in New Albany, Indiana. He had suffered from heart problems for several years.

Holwerk was head of the newspaper’s editorial page when Maria Henson wrote a series about battered women that inspired new laws on domestic violence and led to her winning a Pulitzer, said Tim Kelly, who retired from the paper in 2011 after serving positions that included president, publisher and executive editor.

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Henson said Holwerk “made me a better journalist and he always was in my corner.”

Three other journalists were finalists for the Pulitzer under Holwerk’s leadership, including editorial cartoonist Joel Pett.

Pett, who later won a Pulitzer, said he owes his career to Holwerk, who hired him in 1984.

“Working with him was fantastic,” Pett said. “He was super energetic, super joyful. It is amazing that in a short span of time, I believe, 1989 to 1994, he got so many Pulitzer finalists for a paper of our size.

“Beyond the awards, he allowed us to do our thing by encouraging us.”

After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Holwerk spent three years as a political writer and state capital bureau chief at the Herald-Leader before becoming editor of the newspaper’s editorial page in 1983.

He left in 1998 and became editor of the News Tribune in Duluth, Minnesota. After that, he was editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee in California where he oversaw the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning work of Tom Philp, who wrote a series urging the restoration of Yosemite’s flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Holwerk was preceded in death by his wife of 49 years, Colleen Holwerk. He is survived by two sons, Charles and Louis.