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Pulitzer-Prize Winner Lambert Dies

February 9, 1998

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Investigative journalist William Lambert, who won a Pulitzer Prize and wrote the magazine article that led to the resignation of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, died Sunday. He was 78.

Lambert, of Villanova, died of respiratory problems at Bryn Mawr Hospital, said his daughter, Heather Oxberry.

``I was the only one with him. It was quiet. He had a peaceful death,″ she said. ``He was ill quite a while. It wasn’t something sudden.″

Lambert was considered a pioneer of modern investigative journalism, topping his career with reports that helped compel Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to resign in 1969.

His story, which won the George Polk award for magazine reporting, said Fortas had taken $20,000 in 1966 from stock swindler Louis Wolfson while serving on the bench. Fortas resigned nine days after the story was published.

``He is the modern-day father of investigative journalism,″ said former Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor Gene Roberts, who hired Lambert in 1974 and now teaches journalism at the University of Maryland.

At the time of the Fortas story, Lambert was Life’s top investigative journalist. He became the first member of the magazine’s investigative team in 1963 and worked there until the magazine temporarily folded in the 1970s.

Wallace Turner and Lambert shared a 1957 Pulitzer Prize for their five-part series in The Oregonian on corruption in the Teamsters Union. They became the first witnesses in a congressional hearing into the matter.

Another well-known story of Lambert’s described how President Lyndon B. Johnson had used his political clout to build a financial empire.

Turner said Lambert left his mark in journalism by proving he was a well-trusted reporter of integrity.

``He would never consider writing a story until he was completely satisfied of the truth of what he was writing,″ he said.

Lambert left the Oregonian in 1959 and attended Harvard University as a Neiman fellow. He then joined Life, and later the Inquirer, retiring in 1985.

After retiring, Lambert, an expert on courtroom procedure and libel laws, worked as a consultant to many lawyers defending newspapers that were sued for libel, Turner said.

Lambert’s survivors also include his wife, Jean, another daughter, Cathryn Lambert, four grandchildren and two great-grand children.

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