Tom Wicker, who enjoyed a four-decade association with The New York Times, died Friday of an apparent heart attack. He was 85.
Wicker, who joined The New York Times in 1960 as a political correspondent in the Washington bureau, had a career turn three years later as a result of a tragic moment.
He was the only Times reporter to accompany President Kennedy on his fateful trip to Dallas November 22, 1963.
Gay Talese who penned the major history of The New York Times, described Wicker’s coverage: “It was a remarkable achievement in reporting and writing, in collecting facts out of confusion, in restructuring the most deranged day in his life, the despair and bitterness and disbelief, and then getting on a telephone to New York and dictating the story in a voice that only rarely cracked with emotion.”
The Associated Press reports Wicker was in the first press bus after the Kennedy motorcade when the assassination occurred. In his memoir years later, Wicker recounted the day.
“The shots ringing out in Dealey Plaza marked the beginning of the end of innocence.”
A year later, Wicker was named Washington bureau chief, succeeding James Reston, who hired Wicker.
As his stock at the Times rose, Wicker started writing his In the Nation column with colleague Anthony Lewis in 1966. That same year, Wicker became a national columnist.
By 1968, Wicker had another promotion, having been named associate editor, a title he held until 1985. Wicker maintained his column until retiring to Vermont in 1991.
He wrote 20 books, from novels to reflections of presidents he knew. Arguably, his most popular book was A Time to Die, a winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award in 1976. The story tells Wicker’s first-hand experience of the prison rebellion at Attica in 1971.