Emmett Watson, 1918-2001

Emmett Watson, '42, who spent more than 50 years as an outspoken Seattle newspaper columnist chronicling life in his native city, died May 11. He was 82 when he died of complications from surgery to correct a burst abdominal aneurysm.

Watson, who often referred to himself in print with such self-deprecating monikers as "Watsen," "Watkins" and "Wadkens," created a stir when he started the Lesser Seattle movement to keep people from moving to the Pacific Northwest.

Emmett Watson. Photo courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Veteran Seattle columnist Emmet Watson. Photo courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
He was widely recognized as being entertaining and knowledgeable about everything in Seattle," said retiring U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer, '51, a longtime friend. "But Emmett also was one of the bravest writers around here. He was very much opposed to the war in Vietnam. And he got angry at what he saw as deception by our government officials. He had a keen sense of indignation and was fearless."

During his career, Watson worked at the now-defunct Seattle Star, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times, his most recent newspaper. Last winter, he participated in the newspaper strike against the Times and P-I and wrote for the Seattle Union Record, the strike paper of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.

The orphaned son of poor, working-class parents, Watson was a diehard baseball fan whose childhood dream came true when he played briefly for the Seattle Rainiers after he graduated from Franklin High School. He then went to the UW, where he earned a degree in communications, and worked as a longshoreman before starting his newspaper career in 1946 with the Star. He spent 32 years with the P-I, and had two stints with the Times, the last beginning in 1983.

He was called "one of the greats" by two contemporaries, Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle and Jimmy Breslin of the New York Daily News. Watson wrote four books (including Digressions of a Native Son) and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists' Western Washington Chapter in 1998.

He is survived by his daughter, Lea Watson, of Seattle; his former wife, Betty, also of Seattle; and a niece, Pat Coryell, of Ogden, Utah. —Jon Marmor

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