Memorable Manitobans: Eric Joseph Hampson Wells (1917-1993)
Born at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1917, the second son of Alfred and Annie Wells, his lifelong career as a journalist began in high school when he served as editor of The Hippogriff, for which he was expelled. This led to work at The Democrat, The Regina Daily Star, and The Regina Leader-Post. He served as an infantry machine-gunner in the Saskatoon Light Infantry during the Second World War, in England and Italy. In the last year of his service, he was editor of The Red Patch, the front-line newspaper of the First Canadian Division.
His journalism career resumed in 1946 with a beat as a police reporter for the Winnipeg Tribune. He worked his way up to eventually become Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, resigning in 1966 to go freelance. He earned a National Newspaper Award in 1966 for his editorials on flaws in the Canadian Pension Plan. As a freelancer, he worked in print, radio, and television. For the 1970 provincial centennial celebration, as a committee member of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation, he wrote the document The Nor’Wester and produced the film The Manitoba Story for CBC television and school programs. He was the editor of See-Think, a weekly magazine on current affairs for schools. He also served as a daily editorial commentator on radio station CJOB, like his sports-broadcaster brother “Cactus Jack” Wells. He was President of the Winnipeg Press Club in 1953 and also a Life Member.
With his wife Maria he had four children: Megan, Christopher, Jennifer and Bridget. He had a brief fling with municipal politics, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Winnipeg against Steve Juba. In 1988, he inducted into the Order of the Buffalo Hunt.
In retirement, he became a historian, co-founding the Western Canada Pictorial Index with his companion and working partner Thora Cooke. With a mandate to “preserve, catalogue and disseminate photographs that depict the history and culture of Western Canada, including its people, commerce, architecture and natural resources”, the collection came to comprise some 70,000 image. He was a ghost writer and editor of numerous publications. In 1982 he wrote Winnipeg: Where the New West Begins. He also co-wrote Little Black Devils, A History of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles with Bruce Tascona, for which they won a Margaret McWilliams Award from the Manitoba Historical Society. During the course of his historical research, he discovered the lost diary of Louis Riel, written during the 1885 uprising. At the time of his death, he was involved in other diaries from the same time period. He was a member of The Nor'Westers (1988).
He suffered a heart attack and died suddenly at Winnipeg on 7 February 1993.
“Veteran Newspaperman Was a ‘Noble Practitioner’,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 February 1993. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Vertical File]
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 9 February 1993. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Vertical File]
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 25 December 2021