Inlander's preeminent columnist Robert Herold died last week at 84

click to enlarge Inlander's preeminent columnist Robert Herold died last week at 84
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Robert Herold, 1938-2022

I will always remember when Robert Herold came to see me in the spring of 1994, our newspaper still within its first six months of infancy. You want to write a column... for us? Bob was a pretty big deal, with a regular gig on Spokane Public Radio. Of course we wanted him on the team.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, Bob passed away. He is survived by his wife, Barre McNeil and five children. Spokane will miss him, and I'll miss him, too, especially all the times he stopped by to toss around ideas — some of which even made it into the paper. Starting when we needed it most, the Inlander became essential reading with his help. Over nearly three decades, he kept on churning out ideas and dreams about how Spokane should grow up. Later in life, he was happy with the journey.

"I underestimated Spokane," Bob wrote in 2017, "we've come a long way together. can't help but view the past two decades as anything less than a local renaissance."

Bob was born on Oct. 1, 1938, in Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital to a Navy family, and when Bob was a boy the Herolds moved close to wherever the ships were moored — La Jolla, California; Annapolis, Maryland; Arlington, Virginia. He graduated from Brigham Young University, then later earned both his master's and Ph.D. at George Washington University. After working for the Navy and even a stint at the Washington Post, he moved here to teach at Eastern Washington University in 1969. He later taught at Gonzaga University, where he could watch his beloved Zags women's basketball team.

Bob's Inlander columns meandered across vast historical landscapes, from Gettysburg to the Gulf of Tonkin, stopping off to reacquaint you with American giants like Edward R. Murrow and Abigail Adams. He decried the scourge of bus benches ("crass public giveaways" and "visual atrocities") and even K-12 testing.

The political life of the city was always central to his writings, from the strong mayor system he so strongly supported to the Lincoln Street Bridge he so despised. (Yes, they wanted to pave over the Spokane Falls at one point; Bob's powerful pen helped to slay this uniquely dumb idea.) He shared insights on national issues as well, from Tom Foley to 9/11 to the Supreme Court to Donald Trump. In 2017, we collected more than 90 of his columns in book form; you can find Robert's Rules: Selected Inlander Columns 1994-2017 at Auntie's Bookstore.

Bob's life and career were a master class in giving a damn. A curmudgeon, perhaps, but always teaching. He challenged us to think with care about who we are, where we live and what we can be. We were all his students. ♦

"Why do we want this bridge anyway? Do we really want to double traffic flow through — notice I say 'through,' not 'to' — downtown? ...if the issue is not revisited, they will build it, the cars will come, and downtown will never be the same."

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In May 1997, Bob sounded the alarm on the idea to build a new bridge over the Spokane River Falls. It took until 2000, but his work, along with the Friends of the Falls, ultimately killed the plan.


Spokane County Human Rights Task Force board member, former student
On taking Herold's political science class in 1972 at EWU: "Nobody in that class will ever forget it. He was the best teacher I ever had. He would push you. He wasn't going to just take platitudes. He was inquisitive about everything. He sought people's opinions. He was just eager to learn, always."

Spokane attorney
"My friend Bob Herold was a disciplined and rigorous political philosopher and commentator. While he had many partisan detractors — we used to joke about posting armed guards at his door — almost everything he wrote was grounded in history and his experience as a Cold War naval weapons analyst. It's a shame he will no longer be with us to enjoy the fruits his passionate arguments against extremism and authoritarianism helped cultivate."

"He's like the last of a dying breed of true public intellectuals in a city this size. That's what people saw in public: very gregarious. He deeply loved people — I think that's ultimately what ingratiated him to so many people. The love that he showed to me, my mom, his students.

"When I was a kid, he would turn the city council meeting on every single week. It was basically a waiting game to see how long it would take for somebody at that meeting to say something that pissed him off enough to go get in the car and drive down there. And I just got used to being like, 'Well, he's out the door.' He was just a huge believer in the ability of government to actually play a positive role."


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About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...