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He wrote widely, and with gusto

New York Times reporter R.W. Apple Jr., who died Wednesday, covered wars, Nixon and foie gras.

Published October 5, 2006

NEW YORK - R.W. Apple Jr., a colorful New York Times correspondent who charted the fall of Richard Nixon and covered wars from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf while having a parallel career as a food and travel writer, died Wednesday (Oct. 4, 2006).

Mr. Apple, 71, died in Washington after a long bout with thoracic cancer, the newspaper said.

His last words to New York Times readers came in a piece in last Sunday's paper about food and travel destinations in Singapore.

"He was himself to the last," New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said in a statement. "From his sickbed he hammered out his last words to readers ... negotiated details of the menu and music for his memorial service, followed the baseball playoffs and the latest congressional scandal with relish," Keller said.

Mr. Apple joined the New York Times in 1963 after working for the Wall Street Journal and NBC News. David Halberstam, in his 1979 book on the media, The Powers That Be, described him in his early New York Times years as "a talented young reporter whose star was still ascending, hustling, brash, full of himself, very quick and very energetic."

He covered the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, the Iranian revolution and the collapse of Eastern Bloc governments. As national political correspondent from 1970 to 1976, he extensively chronicled the Watergate scandal. "It was a tragedy in three acts," Mr. Apple wrote in the lead of his story about Nixon's resignation in August 1974.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona hailed Mr. Apple on Wednesday as "one of the finest journalists and one of the dearest friends I have ever had." They met in July 1967, when Mr. Apple was on hand as fire swept the USS Forrestal in Vietnam's Gulf of Tonkin, killing more than 130 servicemen. McCain, a lieutenant commander, barely escaped death that day and was quoted in Mr. Apple's story.

Mr. Apple's epicurean side was evident in his many lighter pieces on travel and food. Known as "Johnny," for Johnny Appleseed, he wrote about everything from hot dogs in Chicago to bacon in Wisconsin.

"Vidalias are to run-of-the-mill onions as foie gras is to chopped liver," he wrote in 1998.

[Last modified October 5, 2006, 01:36:48]

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