Barrett McGurn; Edward L. Nelson Jr.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Barrett McGurn Press Secretary

Barrett McGurn, 95, a onetime foreign correspondent who was the Supreme Court's first press secretary, died July 2 at his home in Bethesda. He had pancreatic cancer.

Mr. McGurn worked for the court from 1973 until 1982. He distributed the court's decisions to the media and responded to inquiries. He was also the personal assistant to Chief Justice Warren Burger.

William Barrett McGurn Jr. was born in New York. He graduated from Fordham University in 1935 and was editor of the student newspaper. After college, he worked for the old New York Herald Tribune and was an Army journalist during World War II for Yank magazine, a popular publication during the war years.

After the war, he became the Herald Tribune's bureau chief in Rome and Paris and covered the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

In 1966, Mr. McGurn joined the State Department as press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. He later became a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam War. In 1969, he moved to State Department headquarters in Washington.

After retiring in 1982, Mr. McGurn became spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington. He wrote five books, including a memoir of his time at Yank magazine.

He was a member of the Catholic Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda. He was also a member of the Cosmos Club.

His first wife, Mary Johnson McGurn, died in 1960. A daughter from that marriage, Betsy Hehn, died in 2007.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Janice McLaughlin McGurn; two sons from his first marriage, William McGurn III of Rome and Andrew McGurn of Norwalk, Conn.; and three sons from his second marriage, Lachie McGurn of Winnetka, Ill., and Martin McGurn and Mark McGurn, both of Bethesda.

-- Timothy R. Smith

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