Allan W. Cromley, Washington bureau chief for Okla. newspaper, dies at 89

August 10, 2011

Allan W. Cromley, 89, a retired Washington bureau chief for the biggest newspaper in Oklahoma and a former president of the National Press Club and the Gridiron Club, died Aug. 8 at his home in Falls Church. He had complications from pneumonia.

Mr. Cromley came to Washington in 1953 as the bureau chief for the Daily Oklahoman (now the Oklahoman) and its now-defunct afternoon publication, the Oklahoma City Times.

Traditionally, the Washington assignment had been rotated every few years, but Mr. Cromley never expressed a desire to return to Oklahoma, and the editors never summoned him back. He spent 34 years running the bureau in the nation’s capital.

He witnessed and wrote about many of the major news events of the second half of the 20th century, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 1954 shootings on the floor of the House of Representatives by a group of Puerto Rican nationalists, and the rise of the space program.

For readers back home in Oklahoma, he wrote about legislation and policy decisions affecting agriculture and energy, and he covered the Oklahoma representatives in the House and Senate.

In 1972, Mr. Cromley accompanied President Richard M. Nixon on his visit to Moscow, and he reported from every Democratic and Republican national convention from 1956 to 1992.

Allan Wray Cromley was born April 11, 1922, in Topeka, Kan., and raised in Minneapolis, Kan. He served in the Army in Europe during World War II and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1948. He worked briefly at a newspaper in Kansas City, Kan., before joining the Oklahoman.

He was president of the National Press Club in 1968; in 1978, he was president of the Gridiron Club, an association of veteran journalists that hosts an annual dinner and stage show lampooning high government officials and office-seekers.

Known on Capitol Hill for his tall, erect figure and a head of gray hair that turned white as he aged, Mr. Cromley had a cameo movie career, playing the part of a reporter in the 1962 movie “Advise & Consent,” based on Allen Drury’s Washington-based novel of political intrigue.

Years later, Life magazine published a photo envisioning a Senate that was overwhelmingly female. Mr. Cromley was one of two imaginary male senators in the picture, surrounded by 98 female senators.

Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Marian Minor Cromley of Falls Church; three children, Kathleen Cromley of Washington, Janet Cromley of Long Beach, Calif., and Carter Cromley of Oakton; and two grandsons.

Officially, Mr. Cromley retired from the Oklahoman in 1987, but he continued to work part time for nine more years.

In 1996, when he retired for keeps, he was feted at a retirement party. You know it’s time to retire, he said, “when your enemies have all died and you forgot who they were.”

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