Beyond a handful of Virginia Press Association awards, Mr. Patton once wrote that his achievements included the 1947 Nobel Prize in physics, winning the 1952 Masters golf tournament and resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis — “the first one, in ’56.” Two were grossly untrue; he was not even born until 1955.
Dubious accomplishments on the world stage aside, Mr. Patton retired from The Post in 2009 after 25 years at the newspaper. After several years as a copy editor in the Style and Business sections, he was tapped in 1996 to lead the new Prince William Extra, a community news publication that set the template for later suburban “Extras” launched by The Post.
As editor, Mr. Patton treated the Extra as a small community newspaper. He stuffed it with news about high school sports, county politics, the crime report, home prices and listings of school lunch menus.
The section had an unquenchable thirst for stories, and Mr. Patton seldom turned down contributions from reporters outside the county, telling them as long as their stories featured a guy named William and a dog named Prince, he could use it.
Over the years, Mr. Patton was involved in more ambitious stories that held public officials accountable. He said he was proudest of launching a series of articles looking into the popular Prince William County sheriff, E. Lee Stoffregen III, who had amassed campaign funds of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“In small-town politics, you maybe have a war chest of $25,000,” Mr. Patton said in an interview for this story. Furthermore, Stoffregen had started expanding his policing powers to include radar patrols and sobriety checks instead of focusing solely on his duties such as securing the courthouse, transporting prisoners, serving writs and collecting back taxes.
Mr. Patton launched dozens of articles that played a role in Stoffregen losing his job to a political newcomer in 2003. Stoffregen was later indicted on grand larceny and embezzlement charges but avoided felony charges by pleading no contest to two misdemeanor charges, returning a semiautomatic weapon meant for county use and repaying the county $16,500.
“Scott was dedicated to his reporters, getting excited about anything that excited them, from the annual county fair to the politics of growth to crime,” said Metro investigative reporter Josh White, who formerly worked under Mr. Patton. “He was a front-end editor, intensely interested in working with me from the start of a story idea so we were both happy when we got to the end. Despite all appearances to the contrary, he was a very serious journalist.”
While working in Manassas, his staff knew that his midafternoon proclamation, “I’m heading to the bank!” was a euphemism for golf practice. He sometimes showed up to work in golf shorts, the next day arriving in a pressed suit and cufflinks.