Carolyn Tuft Wilson, who was an award-winning journalist at the Belleville News-Democrat in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Sunday in her sleep following surgery. She was 59.
Tuft, of Granite City, began her career as a reporter at the News-Democrat after graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.
She was part of the reporting team that covered the disappearance and death of News-Democrat intern reporter Audrey Cardenas in 1988 in Belleville.
In 1992, she won one of the nation’s top awards for investigative reporting — an IRE Medal — from Investigative Reporters and Editors for a series of stories titled “Blacks in Belleville.” The series reported that the Belleville Police Department at the time operated a special patrol unit that targeted black motorists in west Belleville.
Tuft went through 175,000 traffic tickets by hand and found that blacks received a disproportionately higher percentage of traffic tickets in west Belleville than in other parts of the city. Through her research, she discovered that black motorists received 42 percent of the tickets written on the west end, compared with 8 percent elsewhere.
The series also reported that Belleville up to that time never had any black employees, including in the police department. Her reporting led to an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Later in her career, Tuft worked as an investigative reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
She is survived by a son, Kevin, and two stepsons.
Funeral arrangements are pending.