WASHINGTON -- Nat S. Finney, the Pulitzer-prize-winning Washington correspondent who first reported the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba in 1962, died Saturday in George Washington University Hopital after a brief illness, his family announced Tuesday. He was 79.
Finney, a native of Stewartsville, Minn., won his Pulitzer in 1948 for outstanding national affairs reporting in stories for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune describing a Truman administration plan to censor ordinary activities of federal civilian agencies in peacetime.
Finney came to Washington in 1941 as correspondent for the Minneapolis newspaper and Look Magazine. He returned to Minneapolis in 1950 as the Star's editorial page writer.
In 1953 he became Washington correspondent for the Buffalo Evening news where he worked until his retirement in 1968.
Finney is believed to be the first newsman to report on Aug. 16, 1962, that the Soviet Union was installing missiles in Cuba, leading to the Kennedy administration's confrontation with the Moscow government.
Finney covered national and international events and was considered a specialist on economic affairs and atomic energy. He was the first newspaper reporter admitted to the Los Alamos Laboratory in 1945 and covered atomic tests at Bikini in 1948 as wellias the first Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva in 1955.
During a visit to Moscow by President Nixon, one of many presidential trips abroad that he covered, Finney was one of two U.S. reporters to be held by Soviet secret police. Nixon intervened and he was released after two hours.
Finney received the Raymond Clapper memorial award for outstanding Washington reporting in 1948 and in 1975 was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the journalistic fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi.
He was president of the Grijiron Club in 1968 and a member of the National Press Club.
His wife of 41 years, the former Flora Edwards, died in 1971.
Finney is survived by a brother, Ross Lee Finney, Jr., of New York.
Memorial services will be held Jan. 10 at 10:30 a.m. at Gawler's Funeral Home in Washington. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be sent to the national Press Foundation in Washington.