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Journalist Richard Reeves Dead at 83

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Final book, “Infamy,” detailed experiences of Japanese American incarcerees.

Richard Reeves (“Infamy: the Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment of World War II”) and Jan Jarboe Russell (“Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II”) appeared at the Japanese American National Museum in 2015. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

RAFU WIRE SERVICES

Richard Reeves — political journalist, author and longtime faculty member at USC Annenberg — died last week at his Los Angeles home at the age of 83.

Reeves died March 25 of cardiac arrest after battling cancer.

His final book, “Infamy: the Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment of World War II,” tells the poignant stories of those who endured years in “war relocation camps,” many of whom suffered this injustice with remarkable grace.

In a 2015 interview, Reeves described policymakers of that era as “men who treated the Constitution like a piece of paper.” His hope was that “Infamy” would spread awareness of the Japanese American incarceration to help prevent a similar episode from occurring again.

Reeves discussed his book during appearances in Little Tokyo at the Japanese American National Museum and the Nisei Week Book Fair.

In a review for Discover Nikkei, Soji Kashiwagi wrote: “Much of what he has written is not new to me, but the fact that he has put it all in one place — with numerous human stories that I had never read or heard about before — made ‘Infamy’ much more than ‘the same old, same old’ book about camp.”

Reeves gained fame as The New York Times’ chief political correspondent, a post he assumed in 1966 after founding and writing for The Phillipsburg Free Press five years earlier.

His syndicated column appeared in more than 160 newspapers, and he also wrote for Esquire and New York Magazine, frequently appeared on PBS public affairs programs, and was the chief political correspondent of its documentary series “Frontline” during the early 1980s.

He penned more than a dozen books, including political profiles of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

His “President Kennedy: Profile of Power” was chosen by Time magazine as the best non-fiction book of 1993.

Geoffrey Cowan, the Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership and former USC Annenberg dean, called Reeves one of the most important and insightful political reporters of the past 50 years.

“He looked at people and events with a combination of honesty, humor and historical depth,” Cowan said.

A graduate of the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, Reeves had a brief career as an engineer before becoming a journalist.

Prior to teaching at USC, he was named the Regents Professor of Political Science at UCLA in 1992, and also taught political writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Reeves came to USC Annenberg as a visiting professor in 1998, then served for two years as a lecturer and Nate Monaster Writer-in-Residence. From 2001-06, he continued as a lecturer, before becoming a full-time senior lecturer in the fall of 2006.

“Richard was not only a legend in the field of journalism, he was our beloved colleague, friend, teacher and mentor,” said Willow Bay, USC Annenberg dean. “He was a master of his craft and took every opportunity to help his students grow as writers and, more importantly, as people.”

According to the school, Reeves’ son, Jeffrey, said his father’s first desire while he was sick was to get back to teaching at USC Annenberg.

“My dad missed teaching incredibly,” he said. “I know he had a deep affection for the university and his students, and was so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of that family.”

Reeves was born in New York City on Nov. 28, 1936, and was raised in Jersey City. His father, Furman W. Reeves, was a judge in Hudson County, New Jersey, and his mother, Dorothy, worked as an actress in early movies.

His wife, Catherine O’Neill, an advocate for refugee women and families, died in 2012.

In addition to his son, he is survived by daughters Cynthia Fyfe and Fiona Reeves; stepsons Colin and Conor O’Neill; four grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.

His son said his father would be buried in Sag Harbor, N.Y., on Long Island.

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