LOS ANGELES — Al Delugach, a lightning-fast newspaper “rewrite man” and relentless investigator who defied his own publisher to help expose rampant corruption in a St. Louis labor union in the 1960s, has died. He was 89.

Delugach died Sunday at his home in Los Feliz near downtown Los Angeles of mesothelioma. Family members believe he contracted the incurable form of cancer from asbestos exposure during his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Delugach’s long journalism career ended with nearly two decades at the Los Angeles Times, but former colleagues said that his work in St. Louis — where he shared the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for local investigative reporting — epitomized his integrity and grit.

Delugach and fellow reporter Denny Walsh of The St. Louis Globe-Democrat spent three years investigating the Steamfitters union, Local 562. In more than 300 stories, they revealed a pattern of labor racketeering that led to federal indictments for a kickback scheme related to the sale of insurance to the union’s pension fund.

The reporting duo ran into a major obstacle when a new publisher, G. Duncan Bauman, arrived in the midst of their project. Bauman found fault with their coverage and killed a key story — about the federal government quashing its criminal prosecution of the kickbacks. Walsh then took the unorthodox step of leaking the story to a competitor at The Wall Street Journal.

The subsequent coverage led the Justice Department to reverse its decision and pursue indictments against the Steamfitters bosses and others. The federal prosecution, in turn, highlighted the painstaking work Delugach and his partner had done over many months.

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