Richard Harwood; Editor, First Ombudsman at Washington Post

From Times Wire Services

Richard Harwood, who edited the national report for the Washington Post for several years and then served as the newspaper’s first ombudsman, has died. He was 75.

Harwood died Monday of cancer at his home in suburban Bethesda, Md.

As ombudsman of the Post, a job he took in 1970, Harwood affected the paper in many ways. He got the sports section to drop the name Cassius Clay when referring to boxing champion Muhammad Ali. And he helped eliminate potentially divisive terms like “hippie” and “hard hat” from the paper’s news columns. On another occasion, his probe of a reader’s complaint led to a Page 1 apology.

Born in Chilton, Wis., Harwood served in the Marines in the Pacific during World War II. He began his newspaper career in Nashville and established his journalistic reputation at the Louisville Times. After serving as a political correspondent for the Times in Washington, he joined the Post in 1966 as a reporter on the national staff.


“He cast himself as a tough Marine, but he could show his emotion and his humanity,” said Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of the Post. “And he was a tough, exacting editor who contributed a great deal to the journalistic traditions of the modern Post.”

After two years he was named the paper’s national editor. He promoted the cause of better writing through the best possible reporting.

He then served two long stints as the Post’s ombudsman, or in-house critic and link to readers.

When the Post acquired the Trenton Times in Trenton, N.J., in 1974, Harwood was named editor. He returned to the Post in 1977 as deputy managing editor.

His honors included a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, two George Polk Memorial Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal of Sigma Delta Chi for reporting in 1967.

Harwood is survived by his wife, Beatrice Mosby Harwood; a daughter; two sons; and eight grandchildren.