PASSINGS: Edwin Q. White, Bill Dees


Edwin Q. WhiteSaigon bureau chief for AP during Vietnam War

Edwin Q. White, 90, who as Associated Press bureau chief in Saigon during the 1960s was part of a fabled crew of journalists who covered the Vietnam War, died Thursday in Honolulu, the news service said. He had congestive heart failure.

Known to his colleagues as “unflappable Ed,” White began covering Vietnam in 1962 when he was assigned to AP’s Tokyo bureau. Named Saigon bureau chief in 1965 as the United States shifted from an advisory to a full combat role, he oversaw a team of highly seasoned reporters and photographers, including Peter Arnett and Horst Faas.


“Ed White led an extraordinary AP bureau that covered the American involvement in Vietnam from its start through the fall of Saigon in 1975,” said John Daniszewski, a former Times reporter who is now AP’s senior managing editor for international news. “He embodied accuracy, dispassion and objectivity in his reporting, and his contribution to the telling of that history will never be forgotten by his colleagues.”

White had a reputation as a reporter-philosopher who exulted in covering the most important story of his generation. In the book “Lost Over Laos: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship,” Faas and co-author Richard Pyle recalled White’s demeanor in the Saigon bureau one night in early 1969 as Viet Cong rockets tore through the city.

Despite the bombardment, White “calmly cranked a new sheet of paper into his typewriter,” they wrote, “put the world on hold while he relit his pipe, and said, ‘If you are a journalist at this time in the 20th century, and you are not in Vietnam, just what … are you doing?’”

Born in Tipton, Mo., on Aug. 29, 1922, White graduated from the University of Missouri’s journalism school and served in the Army during World War II. When the war ended, his unit was sent to Korea to help repatriate defeated Japanese troops. He later volunteered for postwar duty in Japan and wrote for a new Asian edition of the Stars and Stripes military newspaper. He joined AP in 1949.

He married a Vietnamese woman and intended to live permanently in Vietnam until Saigon fell to Hanoi’s communist forces in 1975. White departed from the roof of the American embassy on one of the last evacuation helicopters.

After leaving Vietnam, he returned to AP’s Tokyo Bureau and also worked in Seoul. He retired to Hawaii in 1987.

Bill Dees


Singer-songwriter collaborated with Orbison

Bill Dees, 73, a singer-songwriter who collaborated with Roy Orbison on the classic rock hit “Oh, Pretty Woman,” died Oct. 24 of natural causes in Mountain Home, Ark., a family spokesman said.

The success of the song, which went to No. 1 in the United States and topped the charts in Britain in 1964, changed Dees’ life. He told National Public Radio in 2008 that the night he and Orbison wrote “Oh, Pretty Woman” Orbison told him he wouldn’t need to go to work that Monday if he didn’t want to.

“He said, ‘Buy yourself an electric piano, and I’ll take you on the road with me,’ ” recalled Dees, who also wrote the chart-topper “It’s Over” with Orbison. “And he said, ‘I’ll pay you what the band’s getting.’ ”

Dees went on to tour Europe and performed on the Ed Sullivan show with Orbison. In the 1980s Van Halen scored a hit with a cover version of “Oh, Pretty Woman” and in 1990 it was featured in the soundtrack for the movie “Pretty Woman,” starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

In the early 1990s Dees became embroiled in a lawsuit over the famous song provoked by a parody version recorded by the rap group 2 Live Crew after copyright owner Acuff-Rose Music Inc. had denied permission for the rewrite.


The court ruled that the rappers did not violate the fair use doctrine, but Dees kept his low opinion of the parody. “It’s like if someone asks you if they could use the car,” he told the Associated Press in 1993. “We said no, but they take it and paint it all different colors.”

Dees was born Jan. 24, 1939, in Electra, Texas, where his father worked as a sand and gravel supplier. He later moved with his family to Arkansas and lived in the Ozarks region of Arkansas and southern Missouri for two decades.

In 2002 he released his first solo album, “Saturday Night at the Movies,” which includes songs he wrote with Orbison.

-- Times staff and wire reports