TV reporter, press spokesman, PR professional, film enthusiast, comedian. Not necessarily in that order.
Matt DeCample wore a lot of hats in his too-short life.
Former KATV reporter and longtime spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, Matt DeCample died Sunday evening (March 3) after a nearly three-year battle with cancer.
He came to Arkansas in the 1990’s to work for KATV Ch. 7 in Little Rock as a general assignment reporter. Bob Steel, the former news director who hired him, said DeCample was one-of-a-kind.
“He was a great reporter. So smart about so many things, especially politics,” Steel said. “He was well read, very intelligent and a good writer. Matt had a terrific sense of humor too and was an improv comic when he wasn’t chasing a news story. He was a pleasure to be around.”
DeCample was hired as Mike Beebe’s spokesman when he was in the Attorney General’s office. Beebe held that office for four years and DeCample moved into the Governor’s office as press secretary and communications chief for the eight years Beebe held the office.
Steel said DeCample was so good at speaking for Beebe that the newsroom jokingly referred to him as “Governor DeCample.”
“He was a great press aide and we used his soundbites so often that we jokingly called him Governor DeCample. I know Governor Beebe really appreciated him because the Governor thanked me once for hiring Matt and bringing him to Arkansas. What a great person Matt DeCample was – he left us too soon and we are deeply saddened by his passing,” Steel told Talk Business & Politics.
He was active in improvisational comedy for more than a decade and in recent years worked with efforts to launch central Arkansas’ fledgling film industry. Kerri Jackson Case, a former reporter with DeCample, wrote a story for Talk Business & Politics in 2013 on his improv work.
“Matt had the rare combination of an incredibly quick mind and a depth of knowledge that was truly astounding. I’ve always said that he was Google before Google,” said Gov. Beebe. “He was a music aficionado, a movie buff, a world of information. He was a diplomat — with the press corps and everyone else — he was kind to each and every one, extremely witty, and had more friends than anyone I know. And, yet, he was also a private man. After receiving his devastating cancer diagnosis, he never complained, he never stopped moving forward, continuing to perform improv up the very last week of his life.”
“He was calm and extremely honest and his credibility was unquestioned. We were lucky to have known him. We will not see his like again,” Beebe added.
When DeCample was diagnosed with liver cancer at the early age of 41 in May 2016, he approached the disease with a dose of comedy and transparency not often witnessed by public figures. He started a blog called “Mattie D vs. The Evil C.” The subhead was “Fighting cancer with writing and bad jokes. Also using modern medicine.”
“Here I am at 41, and I have cancer. Always the overachiever, this guy,” he wrote in one of his opening posts.
DeCample had recently been admitted to a clinical trial in Bethesda, Maryland at the National Institute of Health. He was testing a new oral chemotherapy treatment that was expected to have fewer side effects than traditional chemo.
In typical DeCample fashion, he was optimistic, realistic and humorous about his chances.
“If I’m going to become part of the Great Experiment of national cancer research, let’s go big or go home,” he wrote in late January. “Here I lie reclined on the frontier of yet another Undiscovered Cancer Country. Even more than usual, no one knows what comes next. I’ll just keep betting with house money until the next thing happens.”