Ed Hotaling, journalist who drew attention to racial issues, dies at 75

June 11, 2013

Ed Hotaling, a Washington TV journalist who ended the sports broadcasting career of bookmaker Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder by airing his racially offensive remarks and who later brought renewed attention to the slaves who helped build the White House and Capitol, died June 3 at a hospital in Staten Island. He was 75.

The cause was arteriosclerotic vascular disease, said a son, Greg Hotaling. After suffering a brain injury in a car accident, the elder Hotaling moved to New York City from Washington in 2007 to be closer to family.

Mr. Hotaling spent his early career working for news outlets in Tehran, Paris, Athens and Beirut. In 1977, he began a 25-year reporting career at Washington’s WRC-TV (Channel 4), the NBC affiliate where his best-remembered stories focused on black life, culture and history.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1988, Mr. Hotaling went at lunchtime to Duke Zeibert’s, a District watering hole frequented by sports figures and local power brokers. He spotted Snyder and asked his views on the progress made by blacks in professional sports.

Snyder said African Americans were superior athletes because they had been “bred to be that way” since the days of slavery and that the only jobs left in sports for whites were “a couple of coaching jobs.”


Ed Hotaling, a Washington journalist who brought renewed attention to the slave laborers who helped build the White House and Capitol and who ended the sports broadcasting career of bookmaker Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder by airing his racially offensive remarks, died June 3 at a hospital in Staten Island. He was 75. (Family Photo )

The remarks, which led Channel 4’s newscast at 6 p.m., ignited protests by civil rights groups and others. CBS Sports fired Snyder, who subsequently apologized. He died in 1996.

Mr. Hotaling told The Washington Post he did not support the decision to fire Snyder, calling it “outrageous he should be fired for exercising his First Amendment rights. Rather than silence him, they should keep him on and cover the issue of civil rights in sports.”

For a 2000 feature story about the construction of the Capitol and White House, Mr. Hotaling found Treasury Department pay slips showing that hundreds of slave laborers were forced to work for $5 a month on the projects. Unlike the white laborers — including many immigrants — the slaves’ wages were appropriated by their owners.

Architecture historians and Afro-American scholars told The Post that the story did not break any news as far as they were concerned. But it nevertheless raised fresh awareness of the slaves’ plight and their contributions.

Mr. Hotaling’s Emmy-winning report, which spurred international headlines about “temples of freedom” being built by slaves, led to a bipartisan congressional task force to recognize the slave laborers. In 2007, the task force recommended public acknowledgment in the form of exhibits and documents at the new Capitol Visitor Center, whose grand space was commemorated as Emancipation Hall.

Tour guides were trained to point out the role played by slave labor in the Capitol’s construction.

“It was never included in the mainstream general history of America, and not included in the textbooks that the kids read in school,” Mr. Hotaling told Newsday after his initial broadcast was aired. “I think these things should be published in American school textbooks, and I don’t see why kids shouldn’t see this.”

Edward Clinton Hotaling was born Oct. 16, 1937, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where his father was a laborer at General Electric. He was a 1959 graduate of Syracuse University and received a master’s degree in 1961 from the University of Minnesota journalism school.

In the mid-1970s, he was Middle East bureau chief for CBS News and then for McGraw-Hill World News, a now-defunct news service.

His wife of 25 years, Marthe Vincent Hotaling, died in 1995. Survivors include two sons, Greg Hotaling and Luc Hotaling, both of New York City; two brothers; and a grandson.

Mr. Hotaling wrote several books, including “They’re Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga” (1995), “The Great Black Jockeys” (1999) and “Wink” (2005), a biography of the black jockey Jimmy Winkfield, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902.

“The racing establishment seems to have forgotten 200 years of its own history,” Mr. Hotaling told the Baltimore Sun in 1999. “What it’s really forgotten is that horse racing was America’s first national pastime, and African-Americans were a major part of it.”

Adam Bernstein has spent his career putting the "post" in Washington Post, first as an obituary writer and then as editor. The American Society of Newspaper Editors recognized Bernstein’s ability to exhume “the small details and anecdotes that get at the essence of the person” and to write stories that are “complex yet stylish.”
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