Grand Rapids Investigative Reporter
Henry Tinkham would be humbled and a bit embarrassed if alive today to welcome his induction into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Honor others, he would say. “I feel I have had so much more than my share of good luck and good breaks,” he once wrote a friend.
“Tink” was a born reporter according to William Coté, professor emeritus of the MSU School of Journalism. He served as an investigative reporter for the Grand Rapids Press, a State Capitol correspondent and a public relations director for Consumers Power. His death in 1935 at age 56 was covered in newspapers across the state.
“ Any modern-day journalist could envy his nose-for-news, forceful writing and dogged determination to get a story,” Coté recalls. As a police reporter he broke the notorious 1916 Peck murder case. Tinkham uncovered evidence of Peck’s poisoning by a family member leading to the arrest and eventual execution of the killer in addition to national syndication of the trial’s breaking details.
Over a span of 20-plus years with both the Press and Grand Rapids Herald, the largely self-taught reporter/artist won acclaim for graphic, powerful accounts of train wrecks and floods, illustrated by his chalk-plate sketches.
“Tink didn’t stand by taking notes after the East Paris wreck on the Pere Marquette Railroad, when two passenger trains collided in a raging blizzard the night after Christmas 1903,” Coté said. “Working through the night with the rescue train crew, he helped care for survivors and helped identify the dead so anxious families could be notified.”
In a 1968 autobiography “High Water over the Road,” colleague Ted Booth of the Booth Newspapers family hailed Tinkham as a “dear friend and mentor” who inspired young reporters via personal attention and example. Marcia Van Ness, his journalist granddaughter, and the Tinkham and Van Ness families proudly nominated him for the Hall of Fame.