LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Tom Wicker, the New York Times reporter who covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for the paper before moving on to become the Times’ Washington bureau chief and a columnist for 25 years, died at his Rochester, Vermont, home on Friday, the Times reports.
According to his wife, Pamela, Wicker died of an apparent heart attack. He was 85.
Wicker was in the presidential motorcade on November 22, 1963, when Kennedy was shot. His coverage of the assassination catapulted him to prominence in the journalistic field.
Less than a year later, the North Carolina native was promoted to chief of the Times’ Washington bureau; two years after that, he took over the coveted column of Athur Knock, who was retiring.
Wicker’s regular Op-Ed missive, “In the Nation,” brought a liberal bent to the column, which he wrote from 1966 until his 1991 retirement.
His column lauded President Lyndon B. Johnson’s role in spearheading the Civil Rights Act; later, he would lambaste Johnson for further enmeshing the United States in the Vietnam conflict. Johnson’s successor, Richard M. Nixon, hardly fared better — in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Wicker chastised Nixon for creating the “beginnings of a police state.”
Wicker’s targets ranged far and wide. Over the years he would criticize Ronald Reagan for his self-professed cluelessness during the Iran-Contra scandal, and George H.W. Bush for prioritizing the Persian Gulf war over domestic issues.
He also encouraged students to “engage in civil disobedience” during a 1971 Harvard University teach-in, and that same year he acted as a mediator in the prisoner uprising at the Attica prison in New York state.
In addition to his newspaper work, Wicker was a prolific writer of books. In addition to 10 novels, some of which were published under the pen name Paul Connolly, he produced 1968’s “JFK and LBJ: The Influence of Personality Upon Politics”; the 1978 offering “On Press,” which dismissed the notion of media objectivity; and “ “One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream,” which offered a surprising reappraisal of Nixon’s tenure, among other nonfiction works.