Leo Katcher, who interviewed the kidnaper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby and wrote novels of political intrigue, the sufferings of Jews in Nazi Germany and a biography of Chief Justice Earl Warren, has died. He was 79.
Katcher died Wednesday of a heart attack in Oceanside, where he was a political columnist for the Oceanside Blade Citizen and Oceanside Breeze, his brother, Eddie Katcher, said from New York.
Katcher began his newspaper career at 10 in Bayonne, N.J., when the Bayonne Evening News offered him a job as an office boy in exchange for his promise to quit hitting handballs off the side of the newspaper office.
He also worked at the Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia Ledger and New York Post.
His longtime friend, Tim Mayer, said Hatcher’s stories included an exclusive interview with Bruno Hauptmann, who was executed in 1936 for the fatal kidnaping of pioneer aviator Lindbergh’s infant son.
Mayer said Katcher also was one of the first to report on the existence of President Richard M. Nixon’s “millionaires fund.” The fund, organized in 1950 to help Nixon campaign for GOP causes, threatened Nixon’s vice presidential candidacy in 1952 and led to his famous “Checkers” speech in which he attempted to dismiss stories of his supposed wealth.
In the 1950s, Katcher turned to movies and books, writing such novels as “The Money People,” “The Blind Cave,” “Hot Pursuit,” “Now is the Time,” “Post-Mortem: The Jews in Germany Today” and “Earl Warren: A Political Biography.” His screenplay for “The Eddy Duchin Story” was nominated for an Oscar in 1956.
He also was ghostwriter and editor of “Million Dollar Blackjack” by William G. Bonelli, former Southern California member of the State Board of Equalization. Bonelli conceived the book, Katcher said in 1956, to attack the Los Angeles Times and its then-sister paper, the Mirror, which had reported on Bonelli’s alleged solicitation of political contributions from prospective liquor licensees. Bonelli fled to Mexico after being indicted on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges and died there in 1970.
Katcher turned to politics in the 1960s, working as a California organizer for John F. Kennedy’s successful 1960 presidential campaign against Nixon.