"Jack was a truly great newsman, one of the very best, a superb writer, calm under fire, patient with young writers," former UPI Senior Editor Bruce Cook, a longtime friend and colleague, said Saturday.
"I'll always remember Jack as a southern gentleman. I never, ever heard him say an unkind word about another person."
His family said Wilkinson died of heart and lung failure Wednesday in Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, where he had lived for decades, a notice in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
A former colleague said Wilkinson died on his 58th wedding anniversary. Survivors include his wife Beverly, and daughters Tracy, a foreign correspondent with the Los Angeles Times, and Kelly, a photographer with The Indianapolis Star.
Wilkinson retired several years ago but continued to write for UPI on a part-time basis. Counting his contributions in his retirement years, he was with the news agency for 58 years.
For many years, Wilkinson wrote the widely used VideoView column, which had this familiar heading:
VideoView -- UPI Arts & Entertainment
By JACK E. WILKINSON, United Press International
What's new on the home video scene...
In recent years, Wilkinson handled UPI's popular Daily Almanac feature.
Wilkinson submitted his last column just before entering the hospital March 19.
"Jack was the embodiment of UPI: a fine newsman whose expertise and guidance will be sorely missed, along with the good humor he brought into the newsroom," Managing Editor-NewsTrack Marcy Kreiter said. "He is irreplaceable and future generations of newswriters will be the poorer for his loss."
Retired Dallas UPI sportswriter Mike Rabun, who shared some assignments with Wilkinson "back in the day," also recalled his calm demeanor.
"I don't believe I ever heard Jack get angry and I never saw him in a hurry -- two very good traits to have," Rabun said.
The Dallas-born Wilkinson joined United Press in Denver in 1955 after a stint as a sportswriter with The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He later was New Mexico state editor in Albuquerque, assistant national sports editor in New York and supervised news operations in UPI's Southern Division, which had its headquarters in Atlanta.
Wilkinson, who helped develop UPI's revolutionary CustomCoding delivery system, also served as assistant managing editor for broadcast writing.
After he was appointed to the broadcast position, UPI Managing Editor Robert Kieckhefer said: "Jack Wilkinson is one of UPI's best writers. He has helped shape the UPI broadcast report for decades. In addition, his leadership by example and his calm, patient instruction have helped uncounted numbers of Unipressers understand the importance of broadcast writing in the overall U.S. information marketplace."
Wilkinson was known for mentoring many young journalists and, in his spare time, drew cartoons, some of which were carried by national publications.