Howard Wilkinson: Tales from the Trail

For over 40 years, Howard Wilkinson has been covering the campaigns, personalities, scandals, and business of politics on a local, state and national level. He's interviewed mayors, council members, county commissioners, governors, senators, and representatives.

With so many years covering so many politicians, there must be stories to tell, right?

Look for a new Tales from the Trail column every Saturday.

WVXU-FM

WVXU politics writer Howard Wilkinson spoke with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about the origin of his off-beat politics column, Tales from the Trail, and where it is going from here. You can find Tales from the Trail here.

One drawback to covering politics for a living is that you end up riding on a lot of campaign buses.

I've been a passenger on hundreds of them – some very fancy, others very plain. Some were reasonably comfortable; others were hot and sweaty and gave one the distinct impression mechanical failure was imminent and you might have to find an alternate mode of transportation.

But there was only campaign bus I rode on that was pulled over by the Ohio Highway Patrol for speeding.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

Every presidential administration has its own way of getting its message out to the American people.

That's something we expect. Something we didn't expect was presidential communication via Twitter.

But that's another story for another day.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

Charles P. Taft II – better known to generations of Cincinnati voters as "Charlie" – is a Cincinnati politician I never knew; he passed away in 1983, the year after I arrived in Cincinnati as an Enquirer reporter. I was one of two Enquirer reporters assigned to write his obituary. 

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

For Ohio Gov. John J. Gilligan, the Cincinnati Democrat, 1974 was supposed to be a very good year.

He was a candidate for re-election to a second term as governor, facing the former Republican governor James A. Rhodes.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

This is about the time I didn't interview Bob Dole.

Sounds like a rather odd thing to write about, but stick with me; there's a pretty good story behind it.

It was the early fall of 1996. Dole, a Kansas senator,  had just stepped down as majority leader to campaign full-time for president.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

There aren't a whole lot of perks to being a politics reporter.

Not complaining, mind you. But it's not usually very glamorous work.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

I am a recovering smoker. A recovering heavy smoker.

I smoked day and night; and nearly everything I did during the course of a day triggered the urge to light up – getting up in the morning, having my first cup of coffee, driving to work, taking a break from writing.

Everything.

Having been one of millions of little kids in this country who worshipped John H. Glenn Jr. when, as a Mercury astronaut, he became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, it still boggles my mind that as an adult, I got to know him so well.

But it never really occurred to me that, in 1988, I would be sitting on the couch with Glenn in his hotel suite at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, trading political buttons with him.

But I did.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

I cut my teeth as a young reporter on one of the toughest nuts to crack in Ohio political history – the late James A. Rhodes, four-term governor of the Buckeye State.

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

There are an awful lot of people who knew Morris K. Udall – better known as "Mo" ­– who believe he would have made a great president of the United States.

The Arizona Democrat served in the U.S. House for 30 years until the effects of Parkinson's Disease forced him into retirement in 1991.

WVXU-FM

WVXU reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about the phenomenon of Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Wilkinson also talked about a new column which will appear on Saturdays at wvxu.org - Tales from the Trail, a light-hearted behind-the-scenes look at over 40 years of covering politics. 

Ed. note: Tales from the Trail is a column that will take you behind the scenes of politics to see some of the funny, and sometimes outright bizarre things that happen on the campaign trail, based on Howard Wilkinson's recollections of 43 years of covering politics. 

When you are traveling with a candidate – particularly a candidate for president – there are all sorts of obstacles you must overcome.

WVXU-FM

Here's a confession about my old friend Howard Wilkinson: Many of his best stories never made the radio, newspaper or web.

Yes, he has reported the news for 43 years, and has been the leader in breaking news about politics – but his best stories were about how he got the story, the crazy, weird and always funny stuff that happened in pursuit of the news. Until now.

Jim Nolan/WVXU

Howard Wilkinson has been reporting on local, regional and national politics for more than 40 years. He's covered every Ohio governor's race since 1974 as well as 16 presidential conventions, and interviewed hundreds of politicians, from city council candidates to sitting presidents.