Friday, October 23, 2009

Jack Nelson, 'arguably one of the most important journalists of the 20th Century,' dies at 80

I didn't know Jack Nelson long, or well, but am proud to say that I did know him, and am sad that he is gone. This son of rural Talladega, Ala., left a legacy to America and its journalism when he died this week, at 80, of pancreatic cancer.

"If he thought there was an injustice or fraud being perpetrated, he pursued it with fairness and integrity," his wife, journalist Barbara Matusow, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he won a Pulitzer Prize early in his career for uncovering abuses at mental hospitals. "Investigative journalism is everywhere today, but that wasn't the case when he was doing it." (AJC photo by Kimberly Smith)

Before his 21 years as Washington Bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, his "hard-nosed coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the Watergate scandal in the 1970s helped establish the paper's national reputation," wrote the Times' Elaine Woo. Gene Roberts, former managing editor of The New York Times, told Elaine that Jack was "one of the most important journalists of the 20th century" because of his work in Georgia, his civil-rights and Watergate coverage and molding of "arguably one of the finest bureaus ever in Washington."

Jack co-founded the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, was a regular panelist on "Washington Week In Review," wrote or co-authored five books, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. His survivors include two children from a previous marriage, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A memorial service may be held later. UPDATE, Oct. 25: Doyle McManus, who succeeded Nelson as bureau chief, pays tribute.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This wonderful man you're writing about was my great-grandfather. We were quite close, and you're right, anyone would be proud to say they knew him at all. I'm proud everyday to say I was his great-granddaughter.