Kennedy Aide Ed Guthman Dies at 89

2 Sep

* It saddens us greatly to report the passing of a true American patriot – Ed Guthman – at the age of 89.

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

Ed Guthman and Robert F. Kennedy

 ED GUTHMAN (1919-2008)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Edwin O. Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was on the infamous “enemies list” prepared by aides of President Richard Nixon and who served as press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy, has died at 89.

Guthman, who had a rare disease called amyloidosis, died Sunday at his Pacific Palisades home, said Bryce Nelson, a family spokesman.

“Ed Guthman was not only a great friend, but a great journalist,” Paul Conrad, a longtime political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times, said Monday. “He was the only person I ever tore up a cartoon for.”

Guthman was the Los Angeles Times’ national editor from 1965 to 1977, then served for a decade as editorial page editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1950 for his stories in The Seattle Times on the Washington Legislature’s Un-American Activities Committee. His reporting cleared a University of Washington professor of allegations that he was a Communist supporter.

Guthman was press secretary for Attorney General and later Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from 1961 to ‘65.

A Kennedy loyalist in his private life, Guthman wrote or edited four books about Kennedy. And he always wore a tie clip that President John Kennedy had given him, according to the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

The Los Angeles Times’ obituary of Guthman provided more details of his work with RFK:

In “We Band of Brothers,” Guthman’s 1971 memoir of his years with
Kennedy, he made no effort to hide his affection for Kennedy,
portraying him as a stalwart friend, an impassioned advocate for civil
rights and a demanding boss, whose wry humor brought levity to many
grim moments.

Guthman recounted the time that he was in Oxford, Miss., with other
Justice Department officials in 1962 when rioting broke out on the eve
of James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student at the
University of Mississippi.

A hate-filled mob armed with rocks, chunks of concrete and guns was
attacking a force of about 300 federal marshals, who were under orders
not to fire their pistols at the crowd. The marshals sustained heavy
injuries while Guthman and the other Justice Department officials
watched in agony.

That night, Guthman called Kennedy in Washington to report on the
situation. “How’s it going down there?” Kennedy asked, to which the
aide replied, “Pretty rough. It’s getting like the Alamo.” After a
pause, Kennedy quipped, “Well, you know what happened to those guys,
don’t you?”

The president sent in the Army to disperse the mob, and Meredith
walked up the university steps the next morning.

The exchange between Guthman and Kennedy was repeated in many
published accounts of the conflict as a classic example of the
camaraderie between the attorney general and his staff.

“The way I look at it, we were beleaguered and blood-spattered and he
knew it and worried for our safety. And yet when I think of Oxford,”
Guthman wrote, “this is what I remember first: the light remark that
raised our morale and helped us through the night.”

Guthman spent five years in Kennedy’s service, leaving in 1965 after
accepting an offer from Los Angeles Times Publisher Chandler to
oversee the paper’s national coverage.

Three years later, on the night of the 1968 California presidential
primary, Guthman spoke to Kennedy just before the candidate left his
room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to make his victory
speech; he was shot moments later by Sirhan Sirhan.

Guthman rushed to the hospital, and when he returned to The Times
early the next morning, he sadly suggested that an obituary be
prepared. Kennedy died the next night.

Ed Guthman in more recent years

Ed Guthman in more recent years

In 1971, Guthman was the third name on a 20-name list of political opponents singled out for harassment in a memo sent from Nixon aide Charles Colson to aide John Dean.

The memo described Guthman, then national editor for the Times, as having been “a highly sophisticated hatchetman against us in ‘68.”

He was a journalism professor and senior lecturer at the University of Southern California from 1987 until his retirement last year.

“He exemplifies the ultimate journalist. I’m successful because of what (he) taught me,” CNN anchor and USC alumna Kyra Phillips said during a tribute at the university last year.

Tom Brokaw praised Guthman at that tribute as one of the “greatest generation,” the USC Daily Trojan reported at the time. “I will always see Ed Guthman as citizen Ed Guthman,” Brokaw said.

In the 1990s, Guthman was a founding commissioner and a president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

He also was one of three outside experts who reviewed — and harshly criticized — the 1993 federal standoff at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, in which about 80 people died.

Born Aug. 11, 1919, in Seattle, Guthman attended the University of Washington and worked as a reporter for the Seattle Star before he was drafted in World War II. He served in North Africa and Italy, was wounded, and received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.

Guthman is survived by three sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.


(This version DELETES an erroneous reference to amyloidosis being a blood disease.)

From the Associated Press


3 Responses to “Kennedy Aide Ed Guthman Dies at 89”

  1. Michael Stusser September 5, 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    Ed was, indeed, one of a kind, and a great mentor to me. Here’s an essay I wrote about Ed that appeared today in the Seattle Times.

  2. Lonny Dague August 1, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    I think you know how to write a genuinely nice post. Thanks!

  3. Katherine Miller November 30, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    Thanks for the greet page. I love reading it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: