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James J. Kilpatrick, 89, dies; conservative columnist formerly on '60 Minutes'

In this April 1, 1965 black-and-white file photo, then-Richmond News Leader editor James J. Kilpatrick, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this April 1, 1965 black-and-white file photo, then-Richmond News Leader editor James J. Kilpatrick, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Henry Griffin - AP)

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One of his first actions was to champion the case of Silas Rogers, a young black shoeshine man who had been convicted of fatally shooting a Virginia police officer in 1943. Poring over the court transcripts, Mr. Kilpatrick found inconsistencies in testimony. He retraced the steps of the accused killer and tracked down witnesses the police had never contacted.

His exhaustive reporting over two years led the governor to pardon Rogers. A black newspaper in Richmond inducted Mr. Kilpatrick into its honor roll for courage and justice in 1953.

But by the next year, Mr. Kilpatrick redirected his sense of outrage and allied himself with the Byrd machine and its fight against Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools unlawful. In addition to "A Conservative View," Mr. Kilpatrick wrote the syndicated columns "Covering the Courts," which focused on the U.S. Supreme Court, and "The Writer's Art," a column about language and what he considered its frequent misuse. Mr. Kilpatrick and McCarthy collaborated on a book, "A Political Bestiary" (1978), a satirical dictionary of government jargon.

Mr. Kilpatrick's first wife, sculptor Marie Pietri, died in 1997. They had three sons, M. Sean Kilpatrick of Atlanta, Christopher Kilpatrick of New Bern, N.C., and Kevin Kilpatrick of Woodbridge.

Besides Means and his sons, survivors include four stepchildren; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Mr. Kilpatrick, who lived most recently in Washington, saw himself as a "fiercely individualistic" writer who spoke only for himself.

He said he was once on television to "take the side of 'The Conservative's View of Watergate.' And I asked myself, 'Just what is a conservative's view of burglary?' "


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