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John Howard "Jack" Nelson (October 11, 1929 – October 21, 2009) was an American journalist. He was praised for his coverage of the Watergate scandal, in particular, and he was described by New York Times editor Gene Roberts[a] as "one of the most effective reporters in the civil rights era."[2] He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960.

Jack Nelson
John Howard Nelson

(1929-10-11)October 11, 1929
DiedOctober 21, 2009(2009-10-21) (aged 80)
EmployerLos Angeles Times


Born in Talladega, Alabama, Nelson's father ran a fruit store during the Great Depression. He moved with his family to Georgia and eventually to Biloxi, Mississippi, where he graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1947.

Early careerEdit

After graduating from high school Nelson began his journalism career with the Biloxi Daily Herald.[2] There he earned the nickname 'Scoop' for his aggressive reporting.[2] He then worked for the U.S. Army writing press releases before taking a job with the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 1952. He won the Pulitzer for local reporting under deadline in 1960, citing "the excellent reporting in his series of articles on mental institutions in Georgia."[2][3]

Los Angeles TimesEdit

Nelson joined the Los Angeles Times in 1965. He played an important role in uncovering the truth about the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre of student protesters in South Carolina[4]. In 1970 he wrote a story about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police in Meridian, Mississippi shot two Ku Klux Klan members in a sting bankrolled by the local Jewish community.[2] One of the Klan members, a woman, died in the ambush. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover tried to kill the story, which appeared on Page One, by smearing Nelson, falsely, as an alcoholic.[4]

In the early 1970s, Nelson led the LA Times's award-winning coverage of the Watergate scandal, and then served as the paper's Washington Bureau Chief for 21 years, from 1975 to 1996.[2] During that period, he was a frequent guest on television and radio news programs.[5]


Jack Nelson died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Bethesda, Maryland on October 21, 2009, aged 80.[2]


  1. ^ Gene Roberts was NYT Managing Editor from 1994 to 1997. In the 1960s he and Nelson had been coauthors of The Censors and the Schools (Little, Brown, 1963).[1]


  1. ^ "The censors and the schools". Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Woo, Elaine (October 21, 2009). "Jack Nelson, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, dies at 80; journalist helped raise L.A. Times to national prominence". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  3. ^ "Local Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  4. ^ a b Gentry, Curt (1991). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. New York: WW Norton & Co. pp. 650–652. ISBN 0-393-32128-2.
  5. ^ "Nelson interview". Larry King Show.

External linksEdit