Walter Gold sits in his office in his Rockville home, surrounded by memorabilia. Photos, plaques, medals and knick-knacks practically spill off his desk. He eyes light up as he shows them one by one, as if he is reliving the moment he received them, item after item, piece by piece.
The lifelong Washingtonian has been a newspaperman, a public information officer for the Metropolitan Police Department and a fundraiser for several organizations. At 81, he has a busy schedule with The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad and the
Friendship Fire Association, a volunteer group supporting the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
Gold says he takes the well-being of the people in this area seriously. “I’m a part of Washington. I feel like I’m really a part of this town, and that’s why I do the work that I do.”
Right out of high school, Gold volunteered for the military. He was 17 and served as a paramedic at the end of the Korean War. While Gold valued the medical experience he gained, he was more interested in the three years of free college education provided to veterans by the G.I. Bill of Rights.
“I always wanted to be a journalist, but back then the University of Maryland didn’t have journalism classes,” he recalled.
After graduating in 1959, Gold accepted a position at the Washington Evening Star as a dictationist, typing stories called in to the newsroom by reporters in the field.
He was promoted to nighttime reporter — covering crime, fires and other breaking news in the wee hours when the rest of the reporters were in their beds. Gold says he was responsible for all the night coverage between Baltimore and Richmond.
“If the city editor came in at six in the morning and I was there, he asked, ‘How many dead?’” Gold says, “Because if I was still there writing, it meant people had died.”
Through working the night shift and covering the Washington riots of 1968, Gold formed close relationships with the city police and fire departments during his 10 years at the Star. That led him to become involved with Heroes Inc., which offers financial support to the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Gold raised money for the nonprofit organization with his father, Bill Gold, a Washington Post columnist. The elder Gold was already gathering donations for Children’s Hospital through his column, “The District Line.”
“If you take from the city, give back to the city,” Gold recalls his father telling him. “And I’ve lived by those words ever since.”
In 1969, John Layton, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, contacted Gold. “He called me into his office,” Gold says, “and with a straight face said, ‘Mr. Gold, I’m tired of reading in the Evening Star what’s going on in my department before I know about it. Come work for me.’”
Layton appointed Gold the department’s first public information officer.
The two continued their separate careers, Gold serving as public information officer for the D.C. police, and his father continuing his column at The Post.
In 1985, Gold and his father established the Washington News Network, a television bureau covering Washington politics.
Because it was too expensive for small television stations to send a reporter to Washington, the Golds produced news segments tailored for each client. They interviewed the same government official multiple times, covering the microphone with a different station’s logo each time, Gold says.
Then they sealed the video tape in envelopes and mailed them to their respective stations.
At the bureau’s peak, “we covered Washington for over 100 cities across America,” Gold recalls.
After Bill Gold died in 1997, Gold continued to work at the family-run Washington News Network. He retired in 2005. The bureau started with one cameraman, but by the time Gold stepped down, there were 11, he says.
Today, Gold volunteers for several organizations, many of which tie back to his close relationships with law enforcement officials and emergency responders.
He is a past president and current treasurer of the Friendship Fire Association. He is also treasurer of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad alumni group and has been an active member of the squad for 60 years.
In addition, he is an officer in the Jewish War Veterans Post 692.
He says he is most proud of his fundraising for the JWV, which led to the establishment of the Jewish American Veterans Memorial Sculpture at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville.
“When you’re in Washington, you form a lot of relationships — especially in the Jewish community,” he says.
In addition to volunteer work, Gold enjoys spending time with his wife, Bobbie, and their two children and grandchildren. He keeps their pictures on his desk ledge, amid the other tokens he has collected that, when compiled, make up his life.