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Retired UPI reporter Philip Newman dead at 91

Philip Newman (L) seen covering former President Harry Truman on his first day at United Press International in Kansas City on May 1, 1956. Newman died at the age of 91 after contracting COVID-19. Photo courtesy Roz Liston
Philip Newman (L) seen covering former President Harry Truman on his first day at United Press International in Kansas City on May 1, 1956. Newman died at the age of 91 after contracting COVID-19. Photo courtesy Roz Liston

Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Philip Newman, a retired United Press International journalist, died following a bout with COVID-19, his wife told UPI. He was 91 years old.

Newman, who covered a range of historic news stories for UPI in the 1950s and 1960s, died on Aug. 11 in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts, Roz Liston, Newman's wife and a former UPI reporter and editor, said.

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Born in Dodge City, Kan., on May 1, 1931, Newman was raised in the height of the Dust Bowl. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1953 and served two years in the Army before being hired by UPI in Kansas City.

He was eventually sent to Little Rock, Ark., where he covered the Little Rock Nine -- a group of nine black students chosen by the NAACP to integrate the all-white Little Rock Central High School -- as the National Guard ushered them into class in 1957.

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"Phil spent six weeks outside the school covering the confrontation between the troops and segregationists as the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling was put to the test," Liston said.

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He returned to the story 25 years later as he sat down with eight of the Little Rock Nine for a retrospective for UPI.

A year later, Newman joined a group of other pool reporters who followed Elvis Presley as he joined the U.S. Army in Memphis, documenting the three days the King of Rock 'n' Roll spent at Fort Chaffee, Ark., where he had his iconic hair cut and was subjected to the military lifestyle.

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In the 1960s, Newman covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 and the Apollo 1 fire that killed three Astronauts in Cape Canaveral, Fla., in 1967.

He was transferred to UPI's world headquarters in New York and became overnight editor on the Vietnam War.

Throughout his career, Newman also served as vice president of the Wire Service Guild representing reporters and editors nationwide at publications such as UPI and the Associated Press, as well as editor of the Wire Report, a publication put out by the union.

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Newman retired from UPI in 1983 and freelanced for the TimesLedger Newspapers in Queens where he covered the MTA and the John Gotti "Junior" mob trials, as well as his hometown Kansas Jayhawks defeating St. John's University in the 1952 NCAA basketball championship.

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A Manhattan resident, Newman owned a second home in North Egremont, Mass., and spent the last year of his life in a nursing home in Great Barrington after breaking both of his hips.

He is survived by Liston, who he married in 1982, and two first cousins, Vera Jean Kirkendall and Ruth Rewert, who live with their families in California and Kansas, respectively.

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