Time writer Neil MacNeil was a frequent face on public affairs television shows, including
Time writer Neil MacNeil was a frequent face on public affairs television shows, including "Washington Week." (Family Photo)
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Neil MacNeilJournalist, Author

Neil MacNeil, 85, a congressional correspondent for Time magazine for nearly 30 years and an early presence on public affairs television shows, died June 7 at his home in Bethesda. He had lung cancer.

After an early career as a Washington reporter for the United Press wire service, Mr. MacNeil joined Time in 1958 and became its chief congressional correspondent.

In 1964, his public affairs show "Neil MacNeil Reports From Congress" began airing on WETA.

Three years later, he became a founding panelist on "Washington Week in Review," now called "Washington Week," and remained affiliated with the public broadcasting program for 11 years.

His books included "Forge of Democracy" (1963), a widely praised history of the U.S. House of Representatives, and "Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man" (1970), a biography of minority leader Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-Ill.), the former minority leader.

He also wrote "The President's Medal, 1789-1977" (1977), a history of presidential inaugural medals. At the time of his death, he was writing a history of the U.S. Senate.

Neil MacNeil Jr., whose father and namesake was an author and New York Times editor, was born in the Bronx, N.Y.

He was a 1948 graduate of Harvard University and did graduate work in American history and the study of historical knowledge at Columbia University. In 1980, he was the first recipient of the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress.

He was a member of historical societies and was a former chairman of the United States Assay Commission, a panel of citizens, appointed by the president, to review government coinage.

Like his father, he was a former president of the Clan MacNeil Association of America.

His marriage to Laureen Kunz MacNeil ended in divorce.

Survivors include five children, Deirdre MacNeil of Vienna, Catherine Hollinger of Washington, Lachlan Murdoch MacNeil of Sterling, Maurya Boyd of Charlotte, N.C., and Tara Veitch of London; and 10 grandchildren.

-- Adam Bernstein

© 2008 The Washington Post Company