Robert E. Thompson, 82; Former Times Writer

From a Times Staff Writer

Robert E. Thompson, 82, a former publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a onetime Washington bureau chief for Hearst Newspapers and a White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times in the 1960s, died of prostate cancer Tuesday at his home in Williamsburg, Va.

A native of Los Angeles, Thompson began his career as a reporter at the Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal-Gazette in 1949. After two years, he moved to a wire service, covering agriculture from Washington, D.C.

He changed his beat to politics in time to cover the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson and Republican vice presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon in 1956.

Two years later, Thompson left journalism for a year to work as press secretary for Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) when Kennedy ran for reelection.

Thompson returned to the Washington press corps as a reporter for the New York Daily News and joined The Times as its White House correspondent in 1962. The same year, he co-wrote the book "Robert Kennedy: The Brother Within."

While covering the aftermath of President Kennedy's 1963 assassination in Dallas, Thompson was at the scene when Jack Ruby shot suspect Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1966, Thompson's last year as a staff writer at The Times, he served as president of the White House Correspondents Assn. He went on to become the Washington bureau chief for Hearst newspapers and was named the Hearst national news editor in 1968.

For four years Thompson worked on the business side of newspapering, as publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1974 to 1978. In that position he also served as a juror for the Pulitzer Prize in 1975-76.

He then returned to newswriting, reclaiming his title as Washington bureau chief for Hearst. When he retired in 1989, he continued to write a weekly column for Hearst, drawing on his years of experience as a political reporter. His last column appeared Oct. 26.

Thompson is survived by his wife, Mary, daughter Monica, son R. Elliott and four grandchildren.

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