Washburn joined the Army in 1949. He scored highly on their psychological and intelligence tests and was trained as a Japanese interpreter. When the Korean War broke out, he was assigned to interrogate prisoners. When he returned home in the late 1950s, he was given the assignment of investigating reports of unidentified flying objects in the mid-Atlantic.
After leaving the military, Washburn took a job with the Charlotte Observer and wrote for several other publications. On his way to interview for a job with the Houston Chronicle he stopped to visit friends in Birmingham and was offered a position with The Birmingham News. Shortly after beginning his career there, he pitched the idea of doing a weekly nightclub column that would give bars a place to advertise. He expanded that idea into his long-lived "Dining Out" column, which later formed the anchor of the "Punch" section. His folksy, personal accounts of meals and service were almost entirely positive, pleasing advertisers as well as readers. He included the experiences and opinions of his fourth wife, Pretty, and later, his fifth wife, Bunny.
Washburn added travel, television and automobile columns to serve advertisers in those industries. His columns served as promotions and earned him free meals, travel vouchers and loaned automobiles. When he divulged the arrangement to a reporter for the Washington Journalism Review, he was immediately dismissed from the News.
Dennis and Bunny responded by launching their own publication, Hotline in 1991, a free weekly booklet which featured Washburn's popular restaurant and nightlife reviews and boasted circulation of up to 20,000.
Washburn died in 2001.
- Singer, Steve (November 1991) "Birmingham News Fires Candid Auto Editor" American Journalism Review
- English, Kathleen (March 15, 2001) "The End of an Era: Birmingham says goodbye to a culinary icon" Black & White