By Martin Weil and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 9, 2006
David E. Rosenbaum, a longtime editor and reporter in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, died yesterday after being beaten and robbed Friday night near his home in upper Northwest Washington.
Rosenbaum, 63, died at 7:10 p.m. at Howard University Hospital, where he was treated for a head injury suffered during the attack on Gramercy Street NW, said Philip Taubman, chief of the Times's Washington bureau.
Doctors had operated on Rosenbaum on Saturday to relieve pressure on his brain.
D.C. police were canvassing the neighborhood yesterday for clues in the attack, which occurred in a quiet section between Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues. No arrests had been made.
"David was one of the most accomplished journalists of his generation in Washington," Taubman said last night.
"He could do anything, and he did so many things brilliantly," Taubman said. "He was an all-time great, versatile reporter who could tackle any subject" and wrote about the most abstruse matters, particularly in financial areas, with "remarkable lucidity, speed" and sophistication.
Rosenbaum joined the Washington bureau in 1968 and, with the exception of three years as an editor in New York, had spent his entire Times career there. He retired late last month but was to continue contributing to the Times.
After leaving his house Friday night for a walk to get some fresh air, Rosenbaum was found by a neighbor about 9:30 p.m. in the 3800 block of Gramercy, a one-block street in an upscale neighborhood about a half-mile south of the Montgomery County border.
Little was known about the circumstances of the assault and robbery.
Police said earlier that two men had been seen getting into an automobile and leaving the area about the time of the attack.
Police said Rosenbaum's wallet was taken, and his brother, Marcus, said the family received a call Saturday indicating that an effort had been made to use a credit card belonging to Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum's survivors include his wife, two children and two grandchildren.
The area where the attack occurred is one of the safest in the city. Street robberies have been reported there occasionally, but homicides and other violent incidents are all but unknown.
Police said last night that they were treating Rosenbaum's death as a homicide, pending an autopsy.
"It's a remarkably safe neighborhood, or it feels that way . . . until now," said Peter Bass, who lives on Gramercy.
On his street and on adjacent streets of single-family homes, "everybody's comings and goings are noticed," Bass said.
In recent years, he said, many of the houses on the tree-lined streets have been sold by longtime residents to younger couples with growing families.
"We have very small children. We'll have our guard up even more, use our alarms more religiously," Bass said.
Karen and Mitchell Strickler, who moved last year after living on Gramercy for more than 30 years, expressed surprise at the news.
It was a neighborhood, Mitchell Strickler said, where people often did not feel the need to lock their houses. "There was no fear of things," he said.
Rosenbaum was known as a mentor to younger reporters and taught and lectured at Dartmouth College, his alma mater, as well as Stanford University and other colleges and universities.
He was a native of Miami and grew up in Tampa. He worked for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida and Congressional Quarterly in Washington before joining the New York Times.
Among the stories he covered were the Senate Watergate hearings, the Iran-contra affair and budget and tax debates between the White House and Congress.
Rosenbaum's work also was focused on national politics; he directed Times coverage of the New Hampshire primaries in the last three presidential election years and continued to be active in covering the 2004 general election campaign.
In the past year, he had covered Social Security restructuring proposals.