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Ian Brodie, 72; kept readers in England abreast of US news

IAN BRODIE IAN BRODIE (Family photo via The Washington Post)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post / May 14, 2008

WASHINGTON - Ian Ellery Brodie, an English journalist who covered most of the biggest news stories in the United States from the 1960s to the end of the 20th century, died of a stroke May 8 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 72.

Mr. Brodie reported on the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and on the "hanging chads" of the 2000 presidential election. He was a Vietnam War and Moscow correspondent, publisher of a small-town newspaper in California, and author of a book on sailing. He traveled to China ahead of President Nixon, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, and scooped the competition on multiple continents.

He was, the Times of London reported, "a reporter in the finest Fleet Street tradition. He never aspired to be a great writer or commentator, but was one of the best newsmen of his generation who loved being at the centre of events - and usually was."

In October 1989, Mr. Brodie, then the Washington correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, was accompanying Vice President Dan Quayle to Southern California when a major earthquake struck San Francisco. As Quayle's aides dithered about heading back to Washington, Mr. Brodie intervened.

"Home?" he asked incredulously, according to a Washington Post magazine story. "Your man has to go up there! Do you want him high-tailing it out of California just a couple of hours after he was posing for pictures with San Francisco police who are now digging people out of the rubble?"

"He's going home," Quayle's aide said doggedly.

"You're out of your mind, all of you," Mr. Brodie replied. "Is he a national leader or is he not a national leader?" Then he threw down his best British gauntlet by invoking the name of the administration's favorite foreign leader. "Mrs. Thatcher wouldn't be asking questions. Mrs. Thatcher would be up there in a minute."

Quayle took his advice. Mr. Brodie went with him, and he scooped the world with a helicopter tour of the devastated area.

Mr. Brodie was born in Bath, England, and grew up in Luton, England. He left school at 16 to work first as a tea boy, then as a reporter for the local newspaper. After two years in the British Army, he worked at a Luton news agency before moving to London's Fleet Street.

Mr. Brodie joined the Daily Sketch, followed by the Daily Express.

He worked as a national reporter and then as a foreign correspondent in Moscow, where he covered the fall of Nikita Khrushchev in 1964.

Mr. Brodie also lived in Southeast Asia, where he covered the Vietnam War for long stretches between 1965 and 1972. He was known for keeping a trunk full of fatigues and body armor at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon so he could jump into the fighting.

In 1975, he moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote for the Daily Telegraph. For more than a decade, he covered the political rise of President Reagan, celebrity trials, the aerospace industry, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens. A resident of Topanga Canyon, home to hippies and rock stars, Mr. Brodie became publisher of the then-new local paper, the Topanga Messenger.

In 1986, Mr. Brodie was appointed Washington bureau chief for the Daily Telegraph, and he and his family moved to Bethesda, where he lived for the past 25 years. In 1993, he went to the Washington bureau of Times of London.

Mr. Brodie retired in 2001 after having a stroke.

He leaves his wife of 30 years, Bridget Crossley Brodie of Bethesda, and two children, Louise Brodie of San Francisco and Russell Brodie of Philadelphia.

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