October 21, 2009
Jack Nelson (Newseum collection)
Jack Nelson (Newseum collection)

Remembering Jack Nelson

Jack Nelson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and longtime Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, died October 21, 2009. He was 80.

Nelson, a native of Alabama, represented a distinguished line of southern reporters and editors who bravely exposed inequities in the South.

He joined the Times in 1965 and opened the California newspaper's first southern news bureau in Atlanta. The Times saw the bureau as a way to bring to its readers "first-hand the meaningful and dramatic news story of the South," such as the struggle for civil rights.

Nelson left Atlanta in 1970 to work in the Times's Washington bureau. He became bureau chief in 1975. In Washington, Nelson shaped the bureau into one of the capital's most influential. In 1996, he became chief Washington correspondent, a position he held until his retirement in 2002.

Prior to the Times, Nelson had been an investigative reporter for the Atlanta Constitution since 1952, where he won the Pulitzer in 1960 for his series of articles on the irregularities at mental institutions in Georgia. He also covered the volatile integration issue in Little Rock, Ark., and racial strife in Mississippi and other parts of the South.

"Journalists monitoring the operations of government are only doing what most other citizens would do for themselves if they had the time," he said.

In 1953, Nelson was assaulted by an angry mob in Hinesville, Ga., after his exposé of town corruption led to 44 grand jury indictments.

Nelson began his career right out of high school in 1947 at Mississippi's Biloxi Daily Herald. He attended Georgia State College and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He authored and co-authored five books, including "Terror in the Night: The Klan's Campaign Against the Jews," published in 1993.

Related link: Inside Media with Jack Nelson

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