Joseph Medill’s Last Words

Joseph Medill published the Chicago Tribune for forty-four years, until his death in 1899. He remained a newsman until the very end.

On March 16, 1899 Medill knew he was dying. The custom of his day was to take down the last words of prominent people. (Goethe’s last words–in German, of course–were, “More light!”) That explains Medill’s actions on this day.

Joseph Medill

Joseph Medill

Shortly after 10 a.m., Medill called his attending physician over to his bedside. Then he told the doctor: “My last words shall be–‘What is the news?'” After that, Medill spoke no more. Within ten minutes he was dead.

Now that’s what you call dedication to your craft. Here’s Medill approaching death, and he’s thinking about what will be catchy in the next day’s paper. Notice that he announces “My last words shall be . . .” Old Joe wanted to make sure the doctor knew what was coming after that, and would remember the words, and would pass them on.

Today you’ll find Joseph Medill’s last words quoted in numerous places. Just like he wanted them to be.

—30—

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6 Responses to “Joseph Medill’s Last Words”


  1. 1 Garry July 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    And for that, he got a block long, wreck of a dead end street that only garbage trucks use & an incinerator named after him. It’s not even an incinerator any more, just a garbage transfer & sorting station now, where many of his newspapers end up!
    OK, there’s a few more blocks of it, but only in small sections, just a couple of blocks long each.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt July 13, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Don’t forget the journalism school at Northwestern University.
      –JRS

      • 3 Garry July 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

        That’s in Evanston & it’s not a “journalism school” anymore. It’s the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, whatever that is.

      • 4 J.R. Schmidt July 13, 2013 at 11:30 am

        With a bloated named like that, it’s obvious that writers no long control the school.
        –JRS

  2. 5 Michael Stichauf July 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Mr. J.R. Schmidt, I’m soooo glad that you are continuing your Chicago History blog after leaving WBEZ. I started getting nervous ‘cuz I stopped getting emails from your last blog. LOVE YOUR STUFF!!!


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