Across more than 33 years as a Tribune reporter, Charles Mount developed a reputation as a dogged, tenacious reporter who produced many exclusive articles from his years covering the State of Illinois and the Cook County civil and criminal courts.
“He was hard-nosed and he was an excellent reporter, with really good contacts throughout his career,” said former Tribune city editor and former assistant managing editor Bernie Judge. “He covered the courts in excellent fashion and always tried to do the job so the Tribune was first with anything fresh.”
Mount, 78, died of heart failure on Dec. 18, said his daughter Hillary Fiveash. He had been an Elgin resident and previously had lived in northern California, Crystal Lake and Northbrook.
Born Charles Kirtley Mount in Cincinnati, Mount was the son of an Army lieutenant colonel father and grew up all around the country. He also lived with his parents when his father was posted in Trieste, Italy, in the late 1940s. He then moved with his family in the South Side Roseland neighborhood in 1949.
Mount began high school at Fenger High School in Roseland but moved with his family in early 1956 to Fort Knox, Ky., where he graduated from Fort Knox High School in 1958. At Fort Knox High School, he played football and baseball and edited the school newspaper.
Mount attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and served as the sports editor for the Daily Northwestern. Mount stayed in Evanston to earn a master’s degree from Medill in 1963, and while in school he also worked part time as a sports reporter for the Associated Press.
Mount started his Army service after earning his master’s degree, and after going through basic training, he shifted to serving in the Army reserves as part of a special forces group before retiring from a 28-year Army career as a lieutenant colonel.
In May 1964, Mount took a job as a neighborhood news reporter for the Tribune. In late 1964, Mount began covering northwest Indiana for the Tribune’s neighborhood news sections. At the start of 1966, Mount was promoted to cover the North Shore suburbs.
“The north suburban beat was where he got his aggressiveness,” Mount’s daughter said. “He realized he wanted to be out on the street with the action.”
Mount later covered military affairs before taking on Cook County criminal courts as his beat in 1973. The first case he covered was the high-profile trial of stable owner Silas Jayne, who was found guilty that year of a conspiracy to murder his half-brother, George Jayne.
“Chuck was an extremely aggressive and highly accurate reporter. He was so competitive that when he was the Tribune’s man at the Cook County Criminal Courts … his daily rivalry with the Sun-Times reporter also assigned at (the) Criminal Courts, each trying to out-scoop the other, became the subject of a feature story in the Chicago Journalism Review,” recalled retired Tribune reporter and rewrite man Jerry Crimmins. “Chuck was also a popular and well-remembered guy with his fellow reporters.”
On March 31, 1975, Mount used his Army training while on the job when an 18-year-old who had been charged with armed robbery tried to escape out the door of a courtroom in the Criminal Courts Building and was hit with a flying tackle in the hallway by Mount.
Later in 1975, Mount shifted his beat to covering the State of Illinois. He later worked as a general assignment reporter, and in late 1978, Mount and a fellow Tribune reporter, Ronald Koziol, were among the Tribune reporters tasked with covering the gruesome discovery of bodies inside the home of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy Jr.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mount covered the Cook County Board while continuing to also serve as a general assignment reporter. In 1991, Mount and his first wife divorced and he moved from Northbrook to Wheeling, and then to Crystal Lake. Mount moved to the Tribune’s McHenry County bureau in 1992, mostly covering McHenry County, including the execution of convicted triple murderer Charles Albanese of Spring Grove in 1995.
Former Tribune reporter Donna Gill noted that the same attributes that made Mount a success in his Army service contributed to his success in journalism.
“He was as gung-ho as they come, but he also grounded himself in facts, prepared for interviews like he would prepare for jumping out of a plane, and always had a sense of fair play,” Gill said. “One can’t really separate the Army officer from the newspaper reporter. They were intertwined.”
After retiring from the Tribune in 1998, Mount purchased a recreational vehicle and drove around the country, golfing and skiing. He eventually bought a house in Isleton, Calif., where he enjoyed golfing, playing tennis and water skiing, his daughter said.
He later began substitute teaching in the California towns of Lodi, Antioch and Stockton, she said. And after returning to the Chicago area in 2011, Mount settled in Elgin, where he served as an election judge for several elections and also substitute taught in Elgin and Burlington. Mount also taught at Medill for a time in the 1980s and was president of the Special Forces Association Chicago Area Chapter 37 from 2014 until 2018.
He was an avid Northwestern University sports fan, holding season tickets for football and frequently attending basketball games.
In addition to his daughter, Mount is survived by another daughter, Kimberly Grabiner, and three grandchildren.