Writer and journalist Dudley Clendinen, 67, died on Wednesday – he had suffered from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since 2010. Clendinen remained in his Baltimore home until Wednesday when he was relocated to the Joseph Richey House for hospice care. A reporter and editorial writer for The New York Times, Clendinen carved his name covering hot-potato topics about which he felt fiercely passionate or hugely curious — gay rights, crowded prisons, abortion, homelessness, elder care — challenging readers to think and to dialogue. A deep-voiced Southern storyteller never at a loss for words, he chronicled his own alcoholism, his difficult coming out and divorce, his friends lost to AIDS, as well as his degenerative illness, which he’d nicknamed “Lou,” all with strength and style.
Clendinen and reporter Adam Nagourney’s landmark book, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, was published in 1987, A Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America in 2008. For Canterbury, Dudley took up residence for 400 days in his mother’s retirement home in Tampa.
He also served stints as senior editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Baltimore Sun. In 2009 and 2010, he taught writing at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore. Recently, Clendinen conducted a series of radio interviews on “Maryland Morning” with Tom Hall called “Living with Lou: Dudley Clendinen on a Good, Short Life.” The man was also known as a world-class dinner party host.
I asked several Baltimore creatives who knew and loved Clendinen’s voice – and his spirit – to describe his presence in their lives.
Tom Hall met Clendinen 21 years ago when the journalist moved to Baltimore to take a job at The Sun.
“Linell, my wife, worked there at the time, and although Dudley’s tenure at The Sun was short, our friendship lasted until he passed away,” Hall said. “I’ll miss being at dinner parties with Dudley, who was one of the great raconteurs of all time. We always met wonderful people at his house, and the people we introduced Dudley to at our house were always charmed and engaged by [him]. We spent a lot of holidays together…and my daughter, who is now 23, grew up with Dudley’s fantastic presence, his support, and love. Our family will miss him dearly.”
You can listen to Hall’s remembrance of Clendinen at WYPR.org, and find related pieces.
Author and Baltimore Fishbowl columnist Marion Winik met Clendinen in 2008 at the University of Baltimore. She remembers his wit and great face, his scrambled eggs and salad.