NY Times Columnist William Safire Dead at 79

Former NY Times columnist, Pulitzer prize winner and former Nixon speechwriter William Safire has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 79.

Safire started his career as a radio and television producer until a stint as a PR executive lead him to greater things. While working as a publicist in 1959 he met Richard Nixon, subsequently joining Nixon’s 1960 Presidential campaign. After Nixon won in 68, Safire was appointed as a speechwriter for both Nixon and VP Spiro Agnew. He is credited with being a force behind some of the more memorable quotes from the administration, including Agnew’s use of the phrase “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Safire joined the New York Times as a political columnist in 1973, and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for his coverage of Bert Lance’s alleged budgetary irregularities.

Staunchly conservative, Safire was none the less held in high regard by both sides of the political spectrum until his retirement in 2005. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of liberal New York Times stated on the day he retired:

The New York Times without Bill Safire is all but unimaginable, Bill’s provocative and insightful commentary has held our readers captive since he first graced our Op-Ed Page in 1973. Reaching for his column became a critical and enjoyable part of the day for our readers across the country and around the world. Whether you agreed with him or not was never the point, his writing is delightful, informed and engaging.

William Safire is survived by his wife, two children and one grand child.

(img: Wikipedia)