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Longtime Journalist Bill Donovan Dies

Longtime Journalist Bill Donovan Dies
August 09
13:49 2022

Bill Donovan. Photo from Navajo Times.

By John Christian Hopkins

Bill Donovan, who covered Navajo Nation news for more than 50 years, passed away August 6th. He was 76.

“Bill Donovan is remembered as a witty, outgoing, and courageous person who leaves a legacy of news stories that details Navajo political history,” Navajo Speaker Seth Damon said. “He is a beloved grandfather, father, brother, and uncle who dedicated his life to gaining knowledge through reading and being an avid writer. The pages of newspapers and their readers will forever miss Bill. We are saddened by his passing and offer prayers of protection to his family during this time.”

Donovan covered the Navajo Nation for more than 50 years with newspaper publications in Arizona and New Mexico, most notably the Navajo Times and Gallup Independent.

Beginning in 1971, Donovan wrote about tribal government and politics before semi-retiring to reside in Torrance, California, to be closer to his children, Kelly Cunningham and Richard Donovan, and two grandchildren.

He continued to report for the Navajo Times since 2018 from California.

Raised in Newport, Kentucky, Donovan attended Georgetown College and covered the courts and police at the Lexington Herald.

In September, 1970, he relocated to Gallup, N.M. as a sports editor at the Gallup Independent.

“Bill was straightforward and never put his own slant on a story. He always asked the right questions to get further clarification to ensure his stories were accurate. We remember him for going out of his way to shake hands with tribal leadership while respecting the Navajo Nation government. As Speaker, I would try to buy coffee for him, and his response was – ‘people will talk’,” former Speaker Lorenzo Bates recalled.

Described as a true Gallup icon by former mayors and city councilors, Donovan had a folksy style of writing where his news stories were filled with unique details and anecdotes to grab readers’ attention.

Notable political events he covered included the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, former Chairman Peter MacDonald, the 1989 Window Rock riot, the shut-down of the Navajo Times and tribal government reform history.

“For nearly 50 years, Bill was a great servant of the Navajo people. He informed us even when facing criticism from those in power. Behind the many stories he pounded out each week, he was a good, gracious, easy-going guy who loved books and movies, Navajo Times Editor Duane Beyal said. “We miss his byline, his conversation in the newsroom, and his tenacious coverage of the news.”

An avid reader, Donovan owned a massive collection of books before donating them to local libraries and the Navajo Nation Museum.

A memorial service will be hosted this wintertime in Gallup, N.M., by family and close friends. Donations can be sent to the Navajo Nation Library in honor of his name.

Kelly Cunningham said her father was a kind-hearted man, loved by many.

“I’ve never seen him upset or angry, only annoyed when my brother and I were grammatically incorrect,” she said.

Cunningham remembered her father “always had a book in his hands” and greeted people with sincere respect.

He especially loved his work with the Navajo Nation, Cunningham added.

“There will forever remain a missing piece in our hearts for our amazing father and grandfather,” Cunningham said. “We send love to the Navajo people for remembering his impact on history.”

Longtime Journalist Bill Donovan Dies - overview

Summary: Longtime Journalist Bill Donovan Dies

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