St. Johns, Adela Rogers (1894–1988)

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St. Johns, Adela Rogers (1894–1988)

American journalist, author, and educator. Born Adela Nora Rogers in Los Angeles, California, on May 20, 1894; died on August 10, 1988, in Arroyo Grande, California; daughter of Earl Rogers (a prominent trial lawyer) and Harriet (Greene) Rogers; attended Hollywood High School, from which she received an honorary diploma in 1951; married William Ivan St. Johns (a journalist), on December 24, 1914 (divorced 1929); married Richard Hyland (divorced); married Francis Patrick O'Toole (divorced); children: (first marriage) William Ivan St. Johns II; Elaine St. Johns ; McCullah St. Johns; Richard Rogers St. Johns.

Worked as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner (1913), Los Angeles Herald (1914–18), International News Service (1925–49), Chicago American (1928), and New York American (1929); wrote 15 books and 13 screenplays; considered the first woman sportswriter in the U.S.; was the first woman faculty member of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California at Los Angeles (1950–52).

Adela Rogers St. Johns, born Adela Rogers in Los Angeles, California, in 1894, was the daughter of Earl Rogers and Harriet Greene Rogers . An avid reader and writer from childhood on, she published her first story in the Los Angeles Times in 1903, at age nine. Her formal schooling ended with her departure from Hollywood High School without a diploma after failing a math course, although the school granted her an honorary diploma in 1951. Her father was a prominent trial lawyer who once defended Clarence Darrow on a jury-tampering charge, and St. Johns spent most of her youth in his law office due to the stormy relationship between her parents. When she was 18, her father introduced her to William Randolph Hearst, who hired her for seven dollars a week to write for the San Francisco Examiner. St. Johns continued to work as a reporter for various newspapers between 1913 and 1928, and held the unofficial title of veteran "sob sister" of American journalism. She went on to work for Hearst newspapers for 40 years.

In 1914, at age 20, St. Johns began working at the Los Angeles Herald and married Herald colleague William I. St. Johns. In 1931, she earned the sobriquet of the world's greatest "girl" reporter with her controversial 16-part exposé on the treatment of the city's indigent for the Herald. She covered all beats, encompassing crime, local politics, sports, and society stories, but was noted for her inside scoops on the Hollywood film community. As well, St. Johns wrote profiles for Photoplay magazine of many leading film stars, including Clara Bow , Clark Gable, Greta Garbo , Rudolph Valentino, and Tom Mix.

During the early 1920s, St. Johns left newspaper reporting to raise her children and turned to writing screenplays and fiction, as well as features for such leading magazines as Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Harper's Bazaar. Her first published short story "The Tramp" was based on her experiences in Hollywood. Many of her stories were published in book form; although critics gave them mixed reviews, they were popular with readers. St. Johns returned to full-time newspaper work in 1925 and filed a wide variety of stories, all of which were marked by her distinctively frank, emotional style. During the Depression, she posed as an unemployed woman to expose how callously the poor were treated by both employment agencies and charitable organizations. In 1935, she covered the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper and murderer of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh 's infant son, and moved to Washington to report on national politics in the mid-1930s. At the 1940 Democratic National Convention, she revealed how special effects were used to create the illusion of a spontaneous floor demonstration in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt's renomination, specifically for the benefit of radio listeners. Her coverage of the assassination of Senator Huey Long (1935), the abdication of Edward VIII (1936) and subsequent marriage to Wallis Simpson (Wallis Warfield, duchess of Windsor ), and other major news stories made her one of the best-known reporters of her era. As a sports reporter, she worked with such illustrious colleagues as Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, and Grantland Rice, while following most of the major sporting events in the United States. She covered the controversial Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney "long count" fight in 1927, as well as the Kentucky Derby, World Series, Rose Bowl, Olympics, and U.S. Open at Forest Hills. Adela and William St. Johns were divorced in 1929; she married twice more—to Richard Hyland and Francis Patrick O'Toole—but both marriages ended in divorce.

St. Johns conducted the daily radio program "Woman's Viewpoint of the News" for some time, and retired from newspaper work in 1948 in devote her time exclusively to books. She published a biography of her father, Final Verdict (1962), and recounted facets of her life and thoughts in The Honeycomb (1969) and Some Are Born Great (1974). Many of her novels embraced religious themes, the most notable being the 1966 bestseller Tell No Man. Numerous films were based on her early novels and short stories, chief among them Pretty Ladies (1925), The Single Standard (1929), Scandal (1929), Free Soul (1931), A Woman's Man (1934), I Want A Divorce (1940), and Government Girl (1943). St. Johns enjoyed working in Hollywood, though she perceived her screenplays merely as a way to pay bills.

In 1950, she became the first woman faculty member of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1970, she was awarded a Medal of Freedom by President Richard M. Nixon and emerged from retirement to cover Patricia Hearst 's kidnapping in 1976 for the San Francisco Examiner. Adela Rogers St. Johns died in 1988, at age 94.


Contemporary Authors. Vols. 108 and 126. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

B. Kimberly Taylor , freelance writer, New York, New York

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St. Johns, Adela Rogers (1894–1988)

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