Flora Lewis, 79; Foreign Correspondent, Expert on Europe

From Associated Press

Flora Lewis, an American journalist and columnist whose probing analysis of international affairs appeared in newspapers for nearly six decades, died Sunday. She was 79.

Lewis died of cancer at her home in Paris, according to the New York Times, one of several papers for which she worked.

Her other media outlets included Associated Press, the Washington Post and International Herald Tribune.


Lewis, who was born in Los Angeles, was admired for her deep understanding of European affairs and her sense of the continuity of European history.

She moved to Europe at the end of World War II and spent most of her life abroad, covering the Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and European reconstruction.

She also ventured farther afield for articles on the Middle East conflict and the Vietnam war. Colleagues said she had a knack for noticing small, revealing details and then piecing them together into the big picture.

She was known for her bright blue eyes, her no-nonsense demeanor and her ability to talk comfortably with anyone.

Lewis continued writing articles for the New York Times Syndicate and the International Herald Tribune until a few months ago, though she was ill.

“As she got older she was tough, in the best sense of the word, and she didn’t take any nonsense,” said Jonathan Randal, a former Washington Post correspondent.

“She was very courageous about her disease, and she just basically ignored it,” he said.

Lewis was born in 1922, and studied at UCLA and at Columbia University’s journalism school in New York.

She started her career at Associated Press in New York and went to London for the agency after World War II.

She married Sydney Gruson, who worked for the New York Times, and the two traveled the world together until they divorced.

Because of a policy that barred married couples from working for the paper, Lewis wasn’t able to write for the New York Times until after her divorce in the 1970s.

Lewis wrote five books, including “Europe: Road To Unity” and “Europe: A Tapestry of Nations.”

France named Lewis a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and in 1999 she won a lifetime achievement award from the Overseas Press Club of America.

The group said her “determination, stamina and courage stand as a model to all journalists who would seek foreign postings.”

Lewis is survived by a son, Lindsey, and a daughter, Kerry. Another daughter, Sheila, died in 1999.