John J. Geddie; Founded Loudoun Newspaper

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 31, 2007

John Jay Geddie, 70, a reporter and editor who started a newspaper in Loudoun County three years ago, died Aug. 22 at Inova Fairfax Hospital of kidney failure and pneumonia related to treatment for skin cancer. He lived in Sterling.

Mr. Geddie covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for the Dallas Morning News and became the paper's Washington bureau chief until 1981. He worked briefly for Congress, then owned and edited a small direct-mail newspaper, the Loudoun Easterner, before founding the Loudoun Independent in 2005.

The weekly Independent has a circulation of 67,000, said Mr. Geddie's son, John L. Geddie of Reston. Among the most popular features was Mr. Geddie's column "Out of the Box," which touched on recurring themes: needlenose dachshunds, the adventures of his copyboy and his irrational attraction to fruitcake.

Mr. Geddie was born in Gilmer, Tex., and graduated from East Texas State University, now part of Texas A&M University. He worked as a reporter for the San Angelo Standard-Times until he was drafted into the Army. After military service, he joined the Dallas Morning News in 1962.

He was on the team of reporters who covered the Kennedy assassination and the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumptive assassin, by Jack Ruby. He later covered Ruby's appeals process.

One of Mr. Geddie's favorite stories involved a trip to cover a drought that was plaguing Texas. The reporting was complicated by torrential rainstorms and flooding that seemed to follow him across the state.

His humorous commentary about the colorful onlookers at the 1970 Cotton Bowl game between the University of Texas and the University of Notre Dame so annoyed Notre Dame fans that they arrived en masse at the newspaper to express their disapproval.

Mr. Geddie's coverage in 1968 of a lawsuit filed by exotic dancer Bubbles Cash, who said she had been cheated out of pay by a filmmaker, displayed his tongue-in-cheek style. He noted that she "wore a canary yellow dress apparently borrowed from a midget."

Mr. Geddie moved to the Washington area in 1972 as the Dallas paper's bureau chief. He covered politics, including President Richard Nixon's resignation. He was on the scene in 1977 when the FBI opened its files on the Kennedy assassination investigation, telling a Washington Post reporter: "I'm mainly looking for things to check out later. But the volume of information gives a good indication of the amount of work that was done by the FBI." He said he was also curious about what the FBI had not included in the collection.

After leaving the Dallas paper in 1981, Mr. Geddie became administrative assistant to U.S. Rep. Abraham "Chick" Kazen, a Texas Democrat. He was later a speechwriter for the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, where he worked closely with U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, another Texas Democrat.

Mr. Geddie bought the Loudoun Easterner in Sterling in the mid-1980s and edited it for years, as tensions developed in the county between newcomers and old-timers. He sold it in 1987 but stayed on as editor until two years ago, when he founded the Independent.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 44 years, Shannon Harris Geddie of Sterling, and a brother.

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