James Wilkerson, IT reporter for The morning news from Dallas who was as appreciated for his quick wit and dry sense of humor as he was for his journalism, died in a Dallas hospital on Sunday. He was 52 years old.
Wilkerson’s cause of death is unknown, but it is believed to have been caused by a cardiac or pulmonary event, his mother, Sharon Kessler, said.
Known as Jamey by his family, Wilkerson is known for his unassuming intelligence. He was educated and could hold a conversation about just about anything. Whenever he had a disagreement, he could express his thoughts and feelings in a calm and non-offensive manner, said his niece, Chloe Krause.
âIt was kind of like a walking contradiction in the fact that he was very rebellious, but a little cheesy,â Krause said. “He tried to be rebellious in his nerdy way.”
Obsessed with science fiction movies and books, and TV shows like “Arrested Development,” Wilkerson also loved to play the guitar and be a loving father to his two children, Carter, 21, and Keith, 16. years. He was an accomplished cook who often left a mess in the kitchen – a price his family were more than willing to pay for his famous Christmas Eve tamales.
Wilkerson’s first foray into journalism, as a staff member of the Pflugerville High School newspaper, ended “shockingly, suddenly [and] unfortunately, âafter struggling with another staff member in his second year, he wrote on LinkedIn.
But still, Wilkerson was bitten by the virus. In high school, he wrote a review of Prince’s album “Purple Rain”, where he compared Prince to Jimi Hendrix and described the guitar solo in the album’s title track as “bloated.” The review was apparently so well written that Wilkerson’s teacher was skeptical of its author.
He first majored in computer science at the University of Texas at Austin. At the end of his first semester, he told his mother that he preferred to study journalism.
âAt an unknown time, I found myself in a dark basement with a police scanner in hand,â Wilkerson wrote on LinkedIn. “A dark figure appeared and said to me, ‘You are the new police reporter for The Texan Daily. ‘ Within weeks, I had gotten into the habit of drinking coffee and sleeping with the scanner on.
âI was addicted,â he wrote. “I had this ink deep in my blood.”
Wilkerson’s first journalism job after graduating in 1993 was at The Johnstown Tribune in Pennsylvania. He spent about the next decade in local Pennsylvania newspapers before The New York Times hired him in 2004. After others The Des Moines Register, The Washington Post, National Geographic and a few years outside of journalism, Wilkerson was hired by The news as a computer journalist in August 2019.
In his role at The newsWilkerson was involved in developing numbers for some of the newspaper’s biggest projects. He did not seek attention or recognition for his work, insisting that his signature not appear in a story. He never created an author page on The news’ website.
Cassandra Jaramillo, who reports to the Dallas Police Department for The news, said Wilkerson had a knack for creating data analysis tools essential to his reports, including those that pulled data from 911 calls and crime statistics.
âHis expertise helped qualify the fact that our crime in Dallas has been particularly prevalent in small geographies over the years and that our city’s population-based violent crime incident rate is actually lower than that. that it was in 2004, âshe said. âI will miss his intelligence and his sarcasm so much. “
Nicole Stockdale, Director of Digital Strategy at The news and Wilkerson’s supervisor, Wilkerson said “used his mastery of data to help everyone in the newsroom uncover stories that would otherwise not be visible to the naked eye.”
âYou could really see the diverse talents of James on display at a party like Election Night,â Stockdale said. âHe was cool under pressure, which was a must on high-stakes projects like making sure the voting results circulated on the website. At the same time, he had a soft touch when working with young reporters and students – he was patient and caring. “
Around his family, Wilkerson has spoken a lot about his career – but not as much as his mother, who is eternally proud of all that her son has accomplished in his too short life.
One recent morning, a few days after her son’s death, Wilkerson’s mother walked to her patio. She said she could feel his presence by the grill outside where he often barbecued for his family.
Along with his mother and children, Wilkerson is survived by his father, Lonnie Kessler; sister, Melissa Longoria; uncle, Ken Kratzer; aunt, Linda Kratzer; and nieces and nephews, Chloe, Caleb, Isabella and Zackary Krause.
A visitation is scheduled for 8:30 am Monday at Magnolia Funeral Home, 811 Magnolia Blvd., Magnolia, Texas, 77355. A memorial service will follow at 10:30 am.