Soon after Del Quentin Wilber got his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1997, he stumbled on his first big story: a massive fish kill in the waterways of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Living out of a suitcase and writing in drab motel rooms for days on end, Wilber tromped along muddy shorelines, reeked of dead fish, watched fellow reporters become sick with inexplicable illnesses—and immediately knew that there was no other job he’d rather be doing.
A recovering former collegiate baseball player, Wilber joined the staff of The Baltimore Sun after landing one of the Sun’s prestigious two-year internships. Before long, he was given a full-time position covering crime in a suburban bureau, and in 2001 the paper’s editors tapped him to cover crime in the city. His reporting on wrongdoing by Baltimore’s police chief led to the chief’s conviction on corruption charges and a stint in federal prison. In 2002, Wilber led the paper’s coverage of the D.C. sniper shootings, which later was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wilber’s work as a police reporter received national recognition when he won the Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting in 2004
Wilber joined the staff of the Washington Post in 2004 as the D.C. police reporter. He soon gained the trust of the police department’s top officers as well as numerous cops on the street, which ultimately allowed him to gain unusual access to the inner workings of the department. In numerous stories for the Post, Wilber explored the life of police officers and detectives as they investigated homicides and tried to solve cold cases, car thefts and burglaries.
In 2006, he became the paper’s national aviation writer. Long fascinated by airplanes and aviation, Wilber covered plane crashes, flight delays, and aviation safety and security issues. To better understand the industry, he also became a licensed private pilot. After being promoted by the paper to cover the federal courts, he chronicled the trial of former Senator Ted Stevens and wrote about the complicated issues surrounding the detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He got the idea to write Rawhide Down shortly after attending a hearing for John W. Hinckley Jr. and being handed the would-be assassin’s gun by an FBI agent who kept it in his drawer.
As a boy in Massachusetts, Wilber became obsessed with the Boston Red Sox, in part because his grandfather, Del Wilber, played for the Red Sox as a back-up catcher in the 1950s. He later moved with his family to Northern Virginia and attended Georgetown Preparatory School. He now lives in the Washington area with his wife, NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan, and their two sons, Quentin and Ryan.
Wilber is often asked why he uses his middle name in his byline, and the simple answer is that he’s proud of it. The name goes back four generations to his great-grandfather’s decision to give his son that middle name in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest child, who died in World War I while serving as a fighter pilot. Wilber, a history buff who often watches documentaries while simultaneously reading a nonfiction book, couldn’t resist carrying on the tradition with his own son.
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Del Quentin Wilber
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