June 18, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Hugh Wray McCann, Interlochen

Award-winning journalist remembered for his curiosity

Mr. McCann )

Award-winning journalist and author Hugh Wray McCann strived to understand the workings of things around him.

“He was intelligent. He was curious,” said Karey McCann-Goode.

“The things that he passed on to his kids, not just those of us who went into journalism, was the highest of journalistic ethics, a healthy skepticism and unending curiosity about all things.”

That curiosity was rewarded with a share of a Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor, and an Emmy.

Mr. McCann, who worked at both of Detroit’s daily newspapers, died June 13, 2014, in Interlochen. He was 86.

He was hired at the Detroit Free Press in the mid-1960s and was a member of the paper’s staff that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Detroit race riots of 1967. Mr. McCann also won an Emmy for scriptwriting the WXYZ-TV documentary “Six Days in July” which chronicled the riots.

In the mid-1970s Mr. McCann jumped to the rival The Detroit News, where he was science editor until his retirement 1997.

“He was an exceptional, fine writer and reporter,” said David C. Smith, longtime friend, colleague and editor-at-large for Ward’s Auto World. “He was a quick study who could grasp things fast and that made him a great reporter.”

Born March 28, 1928, in Kilkeel, County Down, Northern Ireland, Mr. McCann was a twin, though his brother, Charles, died of pneumonia at the age of 1. Mr. McCann was the oldest son in a family of 11 children.

Mr. McCann came to the United States in 1950 and worked as a draftsman in the Detroit area. He settled in Royal Oak, where he met his future wife, Beverly Reid.

However, the Korean War interrupted his plans. He was drafted by the Army, trained and sent to serve Korea for two years.

After becoming a U.S. citizen, his surname was changed from Wray-McCann to McCann with Wray as a middle name.

He used the GI Bill to study engineering at Indiana Technical School of Engineering in Fort Wayne, Ind. Later, he attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he earned a master’s degree in journalism, with minors in mathematics, anthropology and Russian studies.

Mr. McCann’s tenor voice earned him a place in the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club. He loved swing and jazz and enjoyed playing the clarinet, saxophone, flute, piano and guitar.

After graduating from U-M, Mr. McCann became a correspondent for Newsweek magazine’s Detroit bureau. He moved his family from Ann Arbor to Royal Oak in 1962.

Mr. McCann’s first novel, “Utmost Fish”, published in 1965, is based on a then-still-classified World War I naval action in Central Africa.

In 1982 he co-authored with Smith “The Search for Johnny Nicholas.” The novel was first published in the United Kingdom in 1982. A revised edition was published in 2011.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Beverly Reid McCann; daughters Karey McCann-Goode and Eileen Ganter; sons Damien and Christopher McCann; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is survived by his brothers Peter, John, Carl and Frank Wray-McCann; and sisters Anne Rice, Pauline O’Callaghan, Jaqueline Richards and Mary Myall; nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased in death by his daughter Maureen McCann and his brothers, Charles and James Wray-McCann.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Munson Hospice House, 450 Brook St., Traverse City, MI 49684-2386; The Interlochen Jazz Ensemble, Interlochen Center for the Arts, 4000 Hwy M-137, Interlochen, MI 49643 or The University of Michigan Mens’ Glee Club, P.O. Box 4037, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

A private memorial will be held in Interlochen in August.

uwatson@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2613