T. Bayard Brunt Jr., led staff suit at Bulletin

Posted: March 01, 2012

T. BAYARD Brunt Jr., 95, the Philadelphia Bulletin rewrite man whose 1981 class-action lawsuit prevented the last owner of the newspaper from using some of its employees' pension funds for its own purposes, died Tuesday at Samaritan Hospice, in Marlton N.J.

On Sept. 14, 1983, U.S. District Judge John B. Hannum approved a $1.2 million settlement for 1,500 former Bulletin employees who had sued to recapture up to $2 million in overfinancing of their pension plan. The Bulletin closed in January 1982.

The result of the suit made reporters, photographers, editors, and others eligible for payments ranging from $200 to $4,300, depending on seniority, the Inquirer reported. Brunt was the lead plaintiff in the suit against Charter Co., the Florida-based last owner of the paper. Daughter Caroline Brunt Moriuchi said that her father "was very proud that he saved the pensions."

Peggy Higgins, a Bulletin business-page copy editor, recalled that "he really fought like a tiger to get that pension money. And we were all beholden."

Mr. Brunt was among the half-dozen men on the rewrite bank, all sitting in a line, phone headsets pressed to their ears, typewriters barking away, as they prodded reporters in the field for detail after detail, writing a few paragraphs that were then rushed to an editor while they inserted another sheet and bled the reporter for a few more paragraphs.

Carroll E. "Buck" Shelton, a Bulletin news editor, said that he told his wife, when he became a Bulletin reporter in the 1950s, that if Mr. Brunt ever phoned late at night, she should hang up on him.

As a copyboy a few years earlier, Shelton said, "I saw him get on the phone at 2:30, 4 in the morning and wake up a police chief who had just gotten to bed after some murder, and ferret out more information.

"I never wanted to be on the other end of that line. He was so good at getting information under extreme pressure."

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Brunt graduated from Moorestown Friends School in 1934 and earned his bachelor's degree in English at the University of Pennsylvania in 1938, where he was Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year.

Caroline Moriuchi said that, though married with two children, he was drafted into the Navy in 1944 "and ended up writing discharge papers, the last one his."

His Bulletin career began when he was at Penn, she said, and included City Hall reporting and, early in his career, "lots of investigative reporting."

He also is survived by sons Thomas III and Peter; a daughter, Lydia Brunt Myers; 11 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. His wife, Janet, died in 2004.

A visitation was set from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Perinchief Chapels, 438 High St., Mount Holly, before an 11 a.m. Episcopal funeral service there. Burial will be in Moorestown Meeting Cemetery.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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