Wilborn Hampton Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., 5th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02140.
Journalist and author. United Press International (UPI), cub reporter in Dallas, TX, 1963, then foreign correspondent; New York Times, New York, NY, editor.
Blue Ribbon Award, 1997, Young Adult Library Services Association Editor's Picks for Reluctant Readers designation, 1998, and Texas Bluebonnet Award nomination, 1999, all for Kennedy Assassinated!
Kennedy Assassinated!: The World Mourns: A Reporter's Story, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.
Meltdown: A Race against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
In Kennedy Assassinated!: The World Mourns: A Reporter's Story, journalist Wilborn Hampton tells the story of how, as a rookie reporter, he happened to be the first employee at United Press International's Dallas, Texas, offices to receive an incoming telephone call reporting that President John F. Kennedy had just been shot. Ironically, the 1963 assassination launched Hampton's career in a new direction: an English literature major, he proved that he had journalistic savvy and fortitude in the hours that ensued as he covered the unfolding story. With what reviewer Elizabeth Bush, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, called "journalistic flair and raw, edge-of-the-seat urgency," Hampton describes the pandemonium in covering the breaking story of the successful assassination attempt, as reporters attempted to out-scoop each other for the latest developments and wrestle for use of the press phone. In one case, Hampton tells of purposefully tying up a hospital phone line so that UPI could have direct and instant access to ongoing events. He also moves beyond the assassination and describes related historical events, such as the inauguration of Vice President Lyndon Johnson and the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald at the hands of Jack Ruby, highlighting his text with photos that lend historical perspective. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly claimed that the journalist's "taut narrative is absorbing enough to keep pages turning." Hampton does not neglect the emotional impact of the event either, and describes breaking down and crying at Kennedy's death. During his career as a reporter, Hampton has come face to face with other momentous turns of fate. In Meltdown: A Race against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island, he describes one of the worst nuclear power plant accidents in the United States, narrating the story in hour-by-hour chronology. In what a Publishers Weekly reviewer described as an "engaging, personal, behind-the-scenes viewpoint," Hampton moves from a discussion of Hiroshima, Japan, as it came under nuclear attack during World War II through the development of nuclear energy to the problems of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979. By ending his book with a discussion of the nuclear tragedy at the Soviet plant at Chernobyl in the mid-1980s, Hampton encourages readers to consider "weighty ethical questions about the future of atomic power," the Publishers Weekly reviewer added. Meltdown provides information regarding the basic operation of a nuclear plant and how the U.S. government dealt with the tragedy as well as presenting readers with "a glimpse into the workings of an experienced journalist," according to Horn Book contributor Betty Carter, who praised the book as a "dramatic narrative."
Hampton was living and working in New York City the day the United States came under attack by terrorists, and his book September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City presents his experiences. His book takes the form of a collection of vignettes that focus on the way individual people—including those who lost family members, those who lived through the ordeal, and those who helped in clean-up efforts—coped with tragedy. "Without sentimentalizing or sensationalizing, Hampton connects all these stories into a cohesive narrative," noted Horn Book contributor Betty Carter, praising the book as "accessible and informative." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Hampton's "strong, and occasionally rawly emotional, reporting" is compelling, while in Booklist GraceAnne A. DeCandido dubbed September 11, 2001 "one of the best" books written to explain that fateful day to younger readers.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Kennedy Assassinated!: The World Mourns: A Reporter's Story, p. 230; January 1, 2002, Randy Meyer, review of Meltdown: A Race against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story, p. 835; July, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City, p. 1878.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1997, pp. 52-53.
Horn Book, January-February, 2003, Betty Carter, review of Meltdown, p. 98; September-October, 2003, Betty Carter, review of September 11, 2001, p. 629.
New York Times Book Review, November 16, 1997, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, July 28, 1997, review of Kennedy Assassinated!, p. 75; November 3, 1997, p. 60; October 15, 2001, review of Meltdown, p. 73; August 18, 2003, review of September 11, 2001, p. 81.
School Library Journal, October, 1997, review of Kennedy Assassinated!, p. 147; July, 2003, Wendy Lukehart, review of September 11, 2001, p. 141.
Candlewick Press Web site, http://www.candlewick.com/ (January 23, 2005), "Wilborn Hampton."*