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Jack White, 63; journalist won Pulitzer, Emmy awards

PROVIDENCE -- Jack White, the dean of Rhode Island journalism who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of President Nixon's underpayment of income taxes, along with two Emmy Awards, has died.

Mr. White died early yesterday at his home on Cape Cod, according to WPRI-TV, where he was a reporter. The cause of death was unknown. He was 63.

Though Mr. White had been a television reporter for two decades, he began his career in newspapers. While working for The Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin, he won a Pulitzer for National Reporting in 1974 for his story on Nixon's tax troubles. The article prompted Nixon to utter his famous line, ''I am not a crook."

Universally respected by his colleagues and competitors, Mr. White became a mentor to many young reporters over the years.

''Whatever he did was right. It was accurate. It was fair," said WJAR-TV reporter Jim Taricani, who said Mr. White took him under his wing when he was young and continued to counsel him in later years.

Taricani turned to Mr. White when deciding whether to disclose the source of a secret FBI videotape that showed a Providence mayoral aide taking a bribe. Mr. White told him not to do it, and Taricani served four months of home confinement.

''He was a generous guy, kindhearted, and so humble. Here was a guy who won a Pulitzer Prize, and you had to drag it out of him," Taricani said.

Mr. White's Pulitzer-winning scoop almost didn't happen. Working off a tip and tax documents, White learned that Nixon failed to pay a large portion of his income taxes in 1970 and 1971.

The night he was prepared to write the story, in September 1973, the union representing reporters at the newspaper voted to go on strike. Mr. White would later recall rolling the story out of his typewriter, folding it up and putting it in his wallet.

Mr. White said he never thought about giving the story to management, even though he risked missing the story.

''I was dreading the information I had was going to get out there. Every day I was checking out-of-town newspapers," he later told The Providence Journal.

Twelve days later, the strike ended. The story ran Oct. 3, 1973. During a news conference the following month, one of Mr. White's colleagues asked Nixon about the story, and Nixon replied: ''People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook."

Nixon agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes.

Mr. White also broke the news in 2001 that former Providence mayor Vincent ''Buddy" Cianci had been indicted on federal corruption charges. Cianci learned of his indictment from Mr. White's report and credited the reporter during a news conference.

''By the way, I heard it from the press," Cianci said. ''I heard it from Jack White."

Asked later in a WPRI interview how he felt knowing Cianci heard it from him, Mr. White said: ''I was stunned, but when I realized it was on live TV, I loved it. That was great."

The Journal's executive editor, Joel Rawson, called Mr. White an ''open, accessible, decent man" whose work and Pulitzer helped advance the newspaper's reputation for investigative journalism.

''He was a guy that came and reported this community like it mattered -- and it does," Rawson said.

WPRI's news director, Joe Abouzeid, called Mr. White ''a world-class journalist."

''Jack was a truly humble man who also made time to help anybody who needed him," he said.

Jim Hummel, a veteran Providence journalist, called Mr. White an encyclopedia of institutional knowledge respected by his competitors for his vast wealth of sources and his ability to break stories. ''It's the loss of somebody who, in this day and age of television journalism, probably will never be replaced," Hummel said.

Mr. White began his career in 1969 as a reporter for the Newport Daily News. He moved the following year to the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin, where he worked as a general assignment reporter, Newport bureau chief, and head of the newspaper's first permanent investigative team.

He later worked for WBZ-TV in Boston and was a reporter for the Cape Cod Times before joining WPRI in 1985 as chief investigative reporter.

Besides his daily reporting duties, he also hosted a weekend morning television program, ''Newsmakers," in which he interviewed public officials and fellow journalists about major local stories.

Mr. White leaves his wife, Beth; three sons; a daughter; and five grandchildren.

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