John M. Couric, a wire service editor who said he gave up the “high priesthood of journalism” for a public relations career, in part to support a growing family that included the future television journalist Katie Couric, died June 22 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. He was 90.
His death, of complications from Parkinson’s disease, was confirmed by his daughter Katie, the former anchor of the “CBS Evening News” and co-host of NBC’s “Today Show” who is scheduled to start a daytime talk show for the ABC network.
“I encouraged her to go into broadcasting because I thought it was more promising than print, having been in print myself,” John Couric, an Arlington resident, told The Washington Post in 1991.
He covered Georgia politics and the state capitol for the Atlanta Constitution before joining the United Press wire service in the late 1940s. He reported from throughout the South for UP, chronicling the rise of then-Gov. Herman Talmadge of Georgia and a hurricane that in 1949 devastated the east coast of Florida.
He joined the news service’s Washington bureau in 1951 and subsequently wrote about then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson’s heart attack, among other stories of national interest.
He was an editor with UP before leaving in 1957 to begin his public relations work with a series of trade associations, including the National Association of Broadcasters and the American Health Care Association.
He retired in 1985 after six years with the Food and Drug Administration, where he wrote articles and speeches.
John Martin Couric Jr. was born Aug. 28, 1920, in Brunswick, Ga., and grew up in Dublin, Ga. He graduated in 1941 with a journalism degree from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and was a newspaper reporter in Macon before serving in the Navy during World War II.
Stationed in the Mediterranean and then the Pacific, Mr. Couric participated in the invasion of Sicily before serving in the campaigns for Tarawa, Peleliu, the Philippines and Okinawa. He retired from the Navy Reserve in 1965 at the rank of lieutenant commander.
Besides his daughter Katie, of New York, survivors include his wife of 67 years, Elinor Hene Couric of Arlington; two other children, Clara Batchelor of Brookline, Mass., and John M. Couric Jr. of Arlington; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Their oldest child, Virginia State Sen. Emily Couric (D-Charlottesville), died in 2001.
Mr. Couric received a master’s degree in communications from American University in 1968 and was an adjunct professor of journalism and public relations in AU’s graduate program and the University of Maryland for the next 27 years.
He was a longtime Arlington resident and member of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington. He was involved in volunteer work for the American Heart Association and, in the early 1960s, the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. He served on the executive committee of both groups.