William Randolph Fowler was the first reporter on the scene of the infamous Black Dahlia murder.
It was January 1947, and he was working for the Los Angeles Examiner. Fowler heard about the crime on a police radio. When he arrived at the vacant lot, he saw the body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short. The unemployed cashier/waitress/actress was severed at the waist and drained of blood. Although the case was never solved, it inspired numerous books and movies.
Fowler covered crime at Los Angeles newspapers from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. He included the Black Dahlia case in his 1991 autobiography, “Reporters: Memoirs of a Young Newspaperman.”
The son of author and journalist Gene Fowler, Will served in the Coast Guard during World War II before joining the Examiner staff as a cub reporter. When Gene died in 1960, Will published a biography of him (“The Young Man From Denver”). He later wrote of his experience following in his famous father’s footsteps in “The Second Handshake.”
Fowler never attended college, but he received his “Ph.D. in the city rooms and on the streets of L.A.” He withdrew as a cofounder of the Greater Los Angeles Press Club in 1947 when famed female city editor Agness Underwood was denied membership.
Fowler later managed the Southern California public relations campaign for Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential run, wrote for “The Red Skelton Show” and worked in public relations. He died on April 14 of prostate cancer at the age of 81.