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The New York Times is reporting that William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter, former Times op-ed columnist and — most recently — the writer of the “On Language” in The New York Times Magazine every Sunday, died today of pancreatic cancer at age 79.
An accomplished, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Safire wrote his twice weekly op-ed column “Essay” for the Times from 1973 until 2005. His last column was entitled, “Never Retire.” He started writing the “On Language” column in 1979, with his last column running on September 13.
Safire also wrote four novels as well as nonfiction books like Safire’s Political Dictionary, which he updated last year. He appeared on “The Daily Show” in April 2008 to promote the book and discuss the election — check out his interview with Jon Stewart above.
Safire had an amazing, lengthy career and undoubtedly left his mark on political opinion writing and language. Today’s Times obituary is moving and personal, an endearing tribute to one of their own. If you liked Safire, you should read it in its entirety, but here is one of our favorite passages:
“He was hardly the image of a buttoned-down Times man: The shoes needed a shine, the gray hair a trim. Back in the days of suits, his jacket was rumpled, the shirt collar open, the tie askew. He was tall but bent – a man walking into the wind. He slouched and banged a keyboard, talked as fast as any newyawka and looked a bit gloomy, like a man with a toothache coming on.”