A retired lead police reporter for The Columbian, John Branton, has died at age 66.
He died Sunday at his home in Vancouver, according to a friend and 911 logs.
In a 27-year career with the newspaper, he reported thousands of stories — likely more local news stories than any other Columbian reporter. He had 325 bylines in calendar year 2011 alone.
A native of Arizona, Branton was a reporter for the Lewis River News, a weekly newspaper in Woodland, before he joined The Columbian in May 1985 to cover north Clark County and Woodland. He quickly made the transition to the police beat.
It was there, in the hustle-bustle world of breaking news, that he found his calling. He had empathy both with law enforcement sources and the people they arrested and jailed. He was a meticulous fact-checker, dedicated to his job, and loathe to miss a story. He carried police scanners and, in later years, his cellphone with him everywhere.
Though most of his stories came from the police and breaking news beat, he could handle any assignment. For many years he served double-duty as a restaurant reviewer for The Columbian’s Weekend section.
He could often be seen eating dinner at his desk, reluctant to leave the array of emergency radio scanners behind in case news broke. He liked spicy food, and his tower of condiments — usually including several kinds of hot sauces — was legendary in the newsroom.
After facing several chronic health challenges in recent years, Branton elected to retire from The Columbian in May 2012.
No services have been announced.