Watchdog journalist Bill Lawrence, 70

  • Updated: March 3, 2010 - 7:51 PM

Lawrence scrutinized Minnesota's tribal leaders as Native American Press/Ojibwe News editor.

Bill Lawrence, an award-winning editor from Bemidji who scrutinized Minnesota's 11 tribal casinos and unearthed corruption among state tribal leaders, died Tuesday after battling prostate cancer. He was 70 and had been moved last week to the Veterans Affairs medical facility in Boise, Idaho.

A Red Lake Band Ojibwe member born in 1939, Lawrence earned a business degree from Bemidji State University, served as a Marine in Vietnam, worked as a miner and attended law school before journalism became his passion. As editor and owner of the Native American Press/Ojibwe News since 1988, Lawrence exposed financial irregularities and filed suits to open the books of the casinos he called "state-sanctioned monopolies."

His journalism investigations helped send several tribal leaders to jail in the 1990s and earned Lawrence a 2003 Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Lawrence's failing health, linked to Agent Orange exposure in the '60s, prompted him to fold his newspapers last fall.

Lawrence is survived by two daughters, Sara Lawrence of Minneapolis and Amy Wolf of Lakeville, and five grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. March 13 at Bemidji State's Memorial Hall.

CURT BROWN

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