George William Bliss

Born: July 21, 1918 in Colorado, United States
Died: September 11, 1978
Occupation: Journalist

Source Citation: Dictionary of American Biography and Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America.

George William Bliss (July 21, 1918 - Sept. 11, 1978), journalist, was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of William Lane Bliss, a newspaper reporter, and Marie Bresnan. His father worked for the Denver Post, then moved the family to the western suburbs of Chicago in the 1920's when he joined the Chicago Herald and Examiner as labor editor. From childhood, Bliss wanted to become a top reporter for a Chicago newspaper. After graduation from Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Ill., he studied for a year at Northwestern University, then dropped out to become a news clerk for the Chicago Evening American in 1937. He was promoted to reporter in 1939. He began his long association with the Chicago Tribune in 1942, joining the metropolitan staff as a reporter. During World War II, he served in the United States Navy in the Pacific. He returned to the Tribune in 1945 and was a general assignment and police reporter until 1951.

Bliss was a thorough reporter. In August 1961 the Tribune published his series of articles that uncovered widespread corruption at the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago. Bliss detailed waste, fraud, padded payrolls, kickbacks, public land giveaways to special interests, rigged contracts, and the link between organized crime and the commissioners of the sanitary district. In 1962 he won the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes for this series.

In 1971, Bliss investigated police brutality after records showed that only 27 of 827 complaints against policemen had been sustained by internal investigations. Bliss had sources in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Chicago Police Department who provided him with police records. He and his team studied 500 cases, interviewing victims and witnesses, and arranging for lie detector tests. Bliss also studied medical records. In his series, he focused on thirty-seven cases. Time magazine said that the Bliss investigation was "probably the most thorough examination of police brutality ever published in a U.S. newspaper." Several policemen were indicted after the Bliss articles, and the Chicago Police Department was ordered to develop policies to reduce the use of excessive force.

In 1975, Bliss and Tribune colleague Chuck Neubauer spent seven months examining the Federal Housing Administration's program of mortgage insurance to aid poor people in buying homes. They reported $4 billion in waste and showed how mortgage firms were defrauding taxpayers. Their series reported a cover-up by officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and collusion between mortgage companies and federal officials. The series prompted several congressional investigations and a shakeup of HUD. Bliss, Neubauer, and four others shared the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

Bliss married Helen Jeanne Groble in June 29, 1940; they had six children. She died in childbirth in 1959, and Bliss married Therese O'Keefe on Aug. 11, 1960; they had one child. After the death of his first wife, Bliss began suffering depression. In late 1977 he took a seven-month leave from the Tribune and was hospitalized. He returned to work on May 18, 1978. On Sept. 11, 1978, in their Evergreen Park, Ill., home, Bliss shot and killed his wife, then fatally shot himself. He was posthumously named to the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 1980.

#00001 Thomas Bliss and Margaret Hulins of England and Hartford, CT
#00014 Samuel Bliss, Sr. and Mary Leonard of Springfield, MA
#00054 Jonathan Bliss and Sarah Eggleston of East Windsor, CT
#00152 Jonathan Bliss, Jr. and Sybil Fox of Windsor CT and Gilsum, NH
#00434 Dr. Abner Bliss and Naomi Loveland of Alstead, New Hampshire
#01219  Moses Bliss, Jr. and Mary Wolcott of Springfield, MA
#02737 Henry Bliss and Julia Frances Mather of Troy and Brooklyn, NY
#05520 Capt. Henry Lay and Laura E. Lane of Chicago, Illinois
#09037 William Lane Bliss and Marie Cornelia Bresnan of Chicago, Illinois
#12298 George William Bliss and Helen Jean Groble of Illinois (6 children)
#12298 George William Bliss and Therese O'Keefe of Illinois (1 child)