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Journalist, policy reporter for the Dallas Morning News, author Wayne Slater killed in car accident

AUSTIN – Retired Dallas Morning News office manager and high-ranking political writer Wayne Slater, who documented the rise of two Texas governors to national notoriety and co-wrote two books about George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, died in a car accident on Monday in Williamson County. He was 74.

Slater died in a two-car accident that occurred around 10:33 a.m. Monday at FM 487 and Chris Lane near Florence, said Sgt. Deon Cockrell of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Cockrell had no further details and said a soldier was still working on the crash site.

Two friends said Slater, who lived nearby, was involved in a head-on collision.

Slater liked personally, though he fought with former governors and oversaw the harsh reporting. Ann Richards, a Democrat, and George W. Bush, the scion of a dynastic Republican family who it turned out to be headed for the White House in the 1990s.

Later, Rove, the 43rd President’s leading political strategist in both Austin and Washington, was the subject of two books by Slater and former State Capitol television reporter James Moore, Bush’s Brain and The Architect.

In 1985, Slater, now a seasoned Associated Press reporter, joined The News as a reporter. Fighting for survival with the Dallas Times Herald at the time, the newspaper sought to improve its coverage of Texas and, in particular, state politics.

“I rated our Austin office third best when we started rehabilitation,” recalled former Dallas Morning News editor-in-chief Robert Mong, who was deputy editor-in-chief at the time. G. Robert Hillman was hired by the Journal-Herald of Dayton, Ohio to head office, Mong recalled. “Hillman knew Slater and really liked him, so we went after Slater.” Soon, Metro reporters Terrence Stutz (education) and Sam Attlesey (politics) were dispatched from Dallas.

“We came out with the best office,” said Mong.

Slater was best known for his coverage of the governorate and presidential campaigns of George W. Bush.

“Wayne Slater was a hardworking and sensitive reporter,” Bush said in a written statement late Monday. “He understood Texan politics better than most and contributed a lot to his field. Laura and I send our condolences to Dianne. “

Slater reported extensively on the multi-day rollback of the Texan legislature regarding the possibility of workers, accident victims and medical patients, employers, manufacturers and health care providers to sue for personal injury and to claim compensation payments. Rove had been a major player behind the scenes in reversing the power and fortune of trial attorneys who helped elect an auspicious Texas Supreme Court and were a bedrock of the Texas Democratic Party’s finances.

After being named head of the Austin bureau in late 1987, Slater focused on making unlimited contributions to the state’s high-dollar political campaigns. He took advantage of new computer technology, persuaded the Dallas editors to allow him to hire research assistants, and created the first searchable campaign fund database years before the Texas Ethics Commission did the same.

Slater later gave an extensive account of the rise of Christian rights and the use of federal grants by the then Attorney General, now Governor Greg Abbott, to track irregularities in the collection of postal ballot papers, mainly by defendants in northeast Texas who were African American.

In the 2014 governor’s race, the last one he covered before his retirement later that year, Slater wrote a long story exposing aspects of the personal narrative of Democratic nominee Wendy Davis, Abbott’s opponent. Davis had portrayed himself as overcoming humble origins.

Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau reporter Wayne Slater in Austin, Texas January 18, 2013.(Erich Schlegel / special article)

Slater, who covered George W. Bush’s full tenure as governor, was serving The News for 16 months full-time when Bush first ran for president. No Texas governor had ever won the White House. Slater enjoyed serving as an interlocutor, introducing the nation to Bush’s record in his first electoral office – and the nuances of how Bush’s reborn conversion to Christianity as an adult affected his conservative political stance.

Clear, concise writing and rigorous reporting were Slater’s hallmarks. A quick joke and a snappy dress, he loved appearing on national television programs – and even deigned to make “hits” on cable networks. After retiring in December 2014, he was Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Slater taught on political campaigns as portrayed in American films, television programs, and novels. He also taught religion and politics.

“Bush’s Brains How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush President” was written by James Moore and Wayne Slater, writers for The Dallas Morning News.(Propriety)

In 2015, he told his West Virginia home newspaper, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, that the two favorite races he covered for the Dallas newspaper were Richard’s winning presidential run in 1990 and the subsequent gubernatorial election when Bush defeated Richards for re-election – 1994 election.

“Ann Richards was the best speaker in the room,” he says. “She was amazingly funny, smart.”

In 1994 Bush had a “brilliant” campaign and never attacked Richards personally, Slater was quoted as saying. Bush was engaging and friendly, he recalled. “You couldn’t hate George Bush. Maybe you don’t like his politics. “

Mong, former editor of The News who is now president of the University of North Texas at Dallas, said Slater had “staying power” as the chief reporter for the Austin newspaper.

“He was tirelessly after a story,” said Mong. “He told a lot of stories because people trusted him and liked to talk to him.”

Wayne Robert Slater (Bush later corrupted Wayne R. Slater, whom he saw in a nickname for the reporter, “Wayner”) was born in Lubbock in 1947, where his father Howard graduated from Texas Tech University with an engineering degree. When Wayne was in first grade, Howard Slater and his wife, Ouida, moved the family to Parkersburg. There Howard, a mechanical engineer, worked at the DuPont Company’s plastics plant on the Ohio River.

Wayne Slater met his future wife, Dianne Guff, at Parkersburg High School. Both went to West Virginia University, where Wayne graduated with a degree in journalism. He began as a reporter with The Parkersburg Sentinel from 1971 to 1973 before spending 10 years with AP in Charleston, W. Virginia, Kansas, Illinois and Colorado.

Slater is survived by his wife Dianne; her son Todd C. Slater of Round Rock and his wife, the former Kristina Mayhugh; and three grandchildren. Agreements were still pending.

Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Lt.  Gov.  David Dewhurst, center, jokes with Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater before the start of the Belo debate Friday night April 13, 2012 at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas.  Four GOP hopefuls are vying for the seat of retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, center, jokes with Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater before the start of the Belo debate Friday night April 13, 2012 at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas. Four GOP hopefuls are vying for the seat of retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.(Brad Loper / Employee Photographer)

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