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Tom Wicker, N.Y. Times journalist, dead

Nov. 26, 2011 at 1:31 PM   |   Comments

ROCHESTER, Vt., Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Tom Wicker, who covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for The New York Times and stayed at the paper for decades, died Friday, his wife said.

He was 85.

Wicker died of an apparent heart attack at his home near Rochester, Vt., his wife, Pamela Wicker, said.

Wicker was a little-known White House correspondent when he covered the Kennedy assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, scribbling notes on a White House itinerary sheet, then dictating his detailed account from a telephone booth, the Times reported.

His coverage propelled him to immediate prominence, and nine months later he became chief of the Times' Washington bureau and two years later began writing a column, "In the Nation," which appeared in the Times two or three times a week from 1966 until his retirement in 1991 and was widely syndicated.

Wicker praised President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress for passage of the Voting Rights Act but criticized the growing U.S. role in Southeast Asia.

Wicker also faulted President Richard M. Nixon for covert bombing in Cambodia and ended up on Nixon's "enemies list" after accusing him during the Watergate scandal of creating the "beginnings of a police state."

In the column, Wicker also cast a critical eye on Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush and took aim at members of Congress, government secrecy, big business, corrupt labor leaders, racism, prison conditions and the news media.

Wicker also wrote for numerous magazines and was the author of 20 books, including "A Time to Die," about the 1971 Attica prison riots, which many critics called his best book.

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