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James Deakin, 77; covered presidents, made enemies list

BARRINGTON, R.I. -- James Deakin, a longtime White House correspondent whose critical reporting put him on Richard Nixon's "enemies list" and earned angry rebukes from Lyndon Johnson, died Sunday. He was 77 years old.

Mr. Deakin died of liver cancer in a nursing home near his home in Barrington, R.I., his son, David Deakin, said late Sunday by telephone from Arlington, Mass.

Mr. Deakin covered the White House from 1958 to 1980 for the St. Louis Dispatch. He wrote several books, including a critical report about lobbying and President Johnson, titled: "Lyndon Johnson's Credibility Gap."

The St. Louis native dictated his own obituary three weeks before his death, his son said.

"His dealings with President Johnson were stormy," Deakin wrote in his obituary. "Ater one question on the Vietnam disaster, Johnson turned on Deakin and shouted: 'Why do you always sell your country short?'

"Deakin was the first reporter to ask President Nixon whether he thought he ought to be impeached for violating the Constitution by failing to execute the laws faithfully," he wrote. "Deakin believed that his persistent questioning of Nixon about the Watergate scandal led to his presidential placement on Nixon's enemies list."

One of Mr. Deakin's best-known books was "Straight Stuff: The Reporters, The White House and the Truth." In it, he argued that the news media was a permanent, resident critic of government, not an enemy dedicated to its destruction.

Mr. Deakin also wrote freelance articles for Esquire, The New Republic, and other magazines. He was president of The White House Correspondents Association in 1974.

He was adjunct associate professor of journalism at George Washington University from 1981 to 1987. He also was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars between 1980 and 1981.

Besides his son, Mr. Deakin leaves his wife of 51 years, Doris; a sister; a daughter-in-law; and two grandsons.

A private burial is scheduled for tomorrow morning in Barrington. A memorial service will be held in several weeks.