Local Obituaries

Former editorial writer Robert Mott was The Bee’s voice on international issues

Robert Mott
Robert Mott Sacramento Bee file

For 25 years as an editorial writer at The Sacramento Bee, Robert Mott articulated the newspaper’s position on international issues, drawing on his experience as a reporter and editor whose assignments had taken him throughout the world.

Mr. Mott died in Sacramento on May 5 of lung disease, said Sabine Mott, his wife of nearly 45 years. He was 80 years old.

Colleagues recalled him as a man who exhibited encyclopedic knowledge and insisted that opinions expressed in editorials be firmly grounded in facts.

“Bob’s main subject as an editorial writer was foreign affairs, though he also had a deep interest in mainstream culture, movies especially, and sports,” said Peter Schrag, The Bee’s editorial page editor when Mr. Mott was hired. “He had lived abroad, worked for an international agency and knew his stuff. He was straight, scrupulously fair and served at times as a corrective voice to an editorial board that on social issues in those days sometimes had a slight tendency to veer a little more to the left than it should.”

Robert Leland Mott was born Dec. 29, 1934, in Junction City, Kan., to Vestal E. and Mary Marie Decker Mott. A child of the Dust Bowl, he moved with his parents to California, where his father worked picking crops before landing a job as a machinist at shipyards on Mare Island during World War II. Mr. Mott attended Napa High School and Napa Junior College.

“He wanted to work as a reporter since he was in high school,” said his wife.

He went on to graduate from Stanford University and earned a master’s degree in history from Johns Hopkins University’s School of International Studies. He also served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, where he worked in intelligence.

A job with The Washington Post took him to the newspaper’s London bureau as an editor and reporter. He and his wife met in London when she was working as an interpreter and translator for the newspaper. Sabine Mott recalled that her husband was severely beaten when he became an unintended target while covering a demonstration in Northern Ireland that turned violent.

Mr. Mott later worked in public affairs for the International Labor Organization, an agency affiliated with the United Nations. The job, his wife said, took him to China, Thailand and the Middle East.

Former editorial page editor David Holwerk said Mr. Mott had a rather stern countenance and demeanor. “I always referred to him as ‘Your Excellency,’ which is what you would call an ambassador, and which he took pretty well,” he said.

He had a lighter side, too. Ginger Rutland, who served with Mr. Mott on The Bee’s editorial board, recalled that he was an ardent movie buff who often wrote whimsical tributes in The Bee to well-known actors when they died.

She remembered him, too, as a connoisseur of fine food and wine. “He was sort of European in that way,” Rutland said.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Mott is survived by daughters Stephanie Born of Berlin and Barbara Ohlson of Reno, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

No services are planned.

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