Obituaries

Richard M. McCarthy, 87; Writer Worked for USIA, Voice of America

Richard M. McCarthy spent more than 50 years with the federal government. He was one of the last U.S. officials in China, forced to leave in 1950, when the consulate closed.
Richard M. McCarthy spent more than 50 years with the federal government. He was one of the last U.S. officials in China, forced to leave in 1950, when the consulate closed. (Family Photo)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 10, 2008

Richard M. McCarthy, 87, a longtime writer and official with the U.S. Information Agency and Voice of America who worked in Asia for many years, died April 14 of congestive heart failure at his home in Silver Spring.

Mr. McCarthy spent more than 50 years with the federal government, beginning in World War II, when he served in the Navy and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. After the war, he had his first overseas assignment with the Foreign Service in 1947 as vice consul in Beijing. He was one of the last U.S. officials in China, forced to leave in 1950, when the consulate was closed by the newly formed Chinese communist government.

Mr. McCarthy then moved to Hong Kong from 1950 to 1957 and helped establish a worldwide reporting program about China. He spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese and became known among colleagues as an "old China hand."

He became the USIA country director in Bangkok in 1957 and taught a course in American literature at a Thai university. From 1959 to 1962, he was USIA director in Taiwan and was the ghostwriter of a work on Chinese painting, "Brush and Ink."

In 1962, Mr. McCarthy had his first prolonged assignment in Washington as chief of the Far East Division of the Voice of America. He went back to Asia in 1965 and 1966 as assistant director of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office in Saigon, coordinating information and psychological warfare programs throughout South Vietnam.

Mr. McCarthy left USIA in 1968 to work for the Salk Institute, a New York scientific research organization. He returned to Washington in 1971 as a consultant with University Associates, an education consulting firm.

In the late 1970s, he became a scriptwriter in the Special English Program for Voice of America, writing about American language and culture for broadcasts in Asia. He later became chief of the Thai and Vietnamese Language Services at Voice of America, where he worked until his retirement in 2003. His scripts on American idioms were published in China and are still used in Voice of America broadcasts in Asia.

Mr. McCarthy was born in Ames, Iowa, and was a graduate of the University of Iowa. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and attended the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. He did graduate work at the University of Southern California.

In Silver Spring, where he lived for many years, he participated in senior track-and-field events and enjoyed playing tennis. He also mentored many young people interested in journalism and international affairs.

His marriage to Rachel Anspach McCarthy ended in divorce.

A son from that marriage, Richard K. McCarthy, died in 2003.

Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Helen Sze McCarthy of Silver Spring; four daughters from his first marriage, Deborah McCarthy of Kailua, Hawaii, Sarah B. McCarthy of Walnut Creek, Calif., Carrell McCarthy of San Francisco and Kate McCarthy of San Diego; two daughters from his second marriage, Karen McCarthy-Chow and Mary T. McCarthy, both of Silver Spring; three stepchildren, Gloria Yeager and Rose Thach, both of Alhambra, Calif., and Michael Thach of Clarksville; and 16 grandchildren.


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