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In Memoriam: Kelly Leiter

Kelly Leiter, dean emeritus of the College of Communications at UT, passed away on Saturday, November 15, at his home in Knoxville. Dr. Leiter was born Oct. 25, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. He twice served in the Navy, first as an enlisted 17-year-old seaman during World War II and again as a reservist during the Korean War.
A journalism graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly fifteen years as a reporter, feature writer, columnist, and editor for The Indianapolis News, The Chicago Daily News, The Washington Star, and the Hialeah Florida Home News. He was also a correspondent for Life magazine and a contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and The Nation. He then decided to return to graduate school at Southern Illinois University where he received his master’s and doctorate degrees while teaching and supervising the news operation of The Daily Egyptian.
He joined the UT faculty in 1966 and taught writing, editing, newspaper layout and design, history, and law. He served as assistant dean of the College of Communications for five years and as associate dean for one year. He was named acting dean in 1984 before being permanently installed in 1986 and retiring in 1990.  During his tenure as dean, he was instrumental in establishing a Chair of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Media Writing.
At UT, he was the first faculty member to receive the UT National Alumni Association’s Outstanding Teaching Award and Outstanding Public Service Award. Leiter was honored twice for extraordinary service to the university, and he received the President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Tennessee Press Association.
Leiter was the principal co-author of The Complete Reporter, a reporting textbook that began publication in the mid-1940s and was published continuously until its last edition (the 7th edition) in 2000. He also served as editor of The Tennessee Press, the monthly publication of the Tennessee Press Association and he coordinated training workshops for the Tennessee Press Association Foundation. He was the writing coach for the editorial staff of the Nashville Banner and he conducted annual writing and design workshops for other newspapers.
In addition, he was the author of “The Leiter Side,” a weekly newspaper column that appeared in seventeen daily and weekly newspapers in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. He also was a weekly commentator on WUOT-FM, the university’s National Public Radio member station and Public Radio International affiliate.
In 1988, the National Society of Professional Journalists named him Outstanding Journalism Teacher of the Year.
Click here to read Dr. Leiter’s 2009 autobiography of his life and career. Sam Venable posted an article about Dr. Leiter which has been captured here.
Dr. Leiter will be buried at one of Knoxville’s veterans cemeteries. Donations in Leiter’s memory can be made to the Kelly Leiter Scholarship Fund in the College of Communication and Information. For more information, contact Patrick Powell at, or contact the college at 865-974-3031.