Fred Winship, long-time theater reviewer for UPI, died peacefully at 90 in his apartment on E. 57th Street on September 3. No cause of death was given. He was writing a review of a play he had just seen when he died.
He was born on September 24, 1924, in Franklin Ohio, son of Wilbur William Winship and Edna Moery Winship. He was the son of a paper manufacturing executive and member of a family active in journalism in Massachusetts, West Virginia, Indiana, and Ohio since the 1790s. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1945 from DePauw University, where he was president of the founding chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, the national journalism fraternity. He graduated in 1946 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and started his career on UPI’s New York news desk. He was a reporter, editor and critic for the wireservice for nearly 70 years.
He was known as one of UPI’s most versatile writers, having covered, as he once said, “everything but sports.” H. L. Stevenson, a longtime managing editor of UPI, called Winship “our triple threat man.” One of his first assignments was as correspondent at the new United Nations in its temporary headquarters in Lake Success, N. Y., and later at its permanent headquarters in Manhattan. There he covered one of the major stories of the day, the lengthy debate on the establishment of the State of Israel.
Winship later covered politics, the courts, social events, and cultural affairs in New York. A personal interest in the arts led him to expand UPI’s coverage in this area and took him to many cities in the United States and abroad to cover museum exhibitions and to critique operatic, symphonic, and dance performances and theatrical events.
In 1958 he was named an Ogden Reid Journalism Fellow and spent a year studying the second five-year economic development program in India, where he already had traveled extensively on tours of the Far East. Other assignments took him to Europe, Africa. South America, and Australia, so that he had filed stories from six of the seven continents.
He wrote some of the earliest reports on the controversial planned city of Brasilia, now Brazil’s capital; the discovery of Cheop’s Solar Ship at the foot of the pharaoh’s pyramid in Egypt; and the opening of the Soviet Union and China to tourism. He reported extensively on the glamorous marriage of American socialite Hope Cooke to the future king of Sikkim.
His interviews ranged from Sir Winston Churchill, President Harry S. Truman, hydrogen bomb developer Edward Teller, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the Dalai Lama and Norgay Tenzing, co-conqueror of Mt. Everest.
He considered an interview with crusty architect Frank Lloyd Wright on the occasion of the completion of the Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York as one of his most interesting encounters. Another was his exclusive interview with notorious murderer Nathan Leopold after his release from prison about his work as a scientific guinea pig in Puerto Rico.
He also was credited with inventing the word “smaze” to describe a combination of smoke and haze. He used it in reporting on a strange atmospheric condition caused by forest fires in 1950 and it was picked up by the U.S. Weather Service and later by the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s.
Winship was named UPI’s assistant managing editor in charge of the new service’s worldwide news feature and enterprise report in 1975. In 1983 he was named senior editor for arts and theater and became UPI’s Broadway drama critic, reviewing literally thousands of productions. Since 2000 he held the title Critic-at-Large for the Arts and Theater.
Winship was active in cultural and community affairs, and served as chairman of the Easter Seal Society of Greater New York, initiating its annual fund-raising telethon. For many years he was president of Letters Abroad, an affiliate of the U.S. Information Service’s People-to-People Program. He was also chairman of The Oratorio Society of New York, the city’s oldest choral group, president of the New York Conference of Patriotic Societies, and a member of the boards of the New York State Easter Seal Society, Museum of the City of New York, and Friends of the American Theater Wing. He was a member of The Society of the Cincinnati and he was listed in The Social Register.
In 1967 he was married to Joanne Tree Thompson, a former screen, stage, and television actress who turned journalist, reporting on fashion and lifestyle for UPI, AP and the New York Post. She died in 1997.
At his request he was cremated and his ashes are to be interred in his family plot at Woodhill Cemetery in Franklin, Ohio next to his beloved wife Joanne.
Survivors include: nieces Anna Hudson of NYC; Elizabeth Tannenbaum of Brattleboro,Vt; Randi Jane Lambert of Punta Gorda, FL; Marguerite Ulrich of Alexandra, OH; and nephew William R. Knutson of Franklin, OH and five great nieces and four nephews.