Burton Hoffman, Washington journalist and political consultant, dies at 81

Burton Hoffman, above in 1976, spent two decades as a journalist and started a 10-year career in politics in 1975.
Burton Hoffman, above in 1976, spent two decades as a journalist and started a 10-year career in politics in 1975. (United Press International)
  Enlarge Photo    
By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2010; 10:38 PM

Burton Hoffman, 81, a Washington journalist for two decades who became editor in chief of National Journal magazine in the mid-1970s and had a second career on Capitol Hill and abroad as a political and economic consultant, died of lung cancer Nov. 17 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

He owned a restaurant in the northern Thai city and had lived there intermittently for the past three years.

Mr. Hoffman moved to the Washington area in 1955 and was a reporter and editor with Congressional Quarterly before joining the Washington Star in 1958.

He spent 14 years at the newspaper, including stints on the city, national and foreign desks, and was promoted to assistant managing editor in 1968.

During the 1972 presidential campaign, Mr. Hoffman left journalism to serve as press secretary for R. Sargent Shriver, a running mate of Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), the unsuccessful Democratic nominee.

Afterward, Mr. Hoffman spent two years as the top editor of National Journal.

Mr. Hoffman started a 10-year career in politics in 1975, first as an adviser for then-U.S. House majority whip John Brademas (D-Ind.). After Brademas left office in 1981, Mr. Hoffman became an adviser to Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). Three years later, he became the administrative assistant to the chairman of the House health and environment subcommittee, Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

Mr. Hoffman joined the Hill & Knowlton public relations firm in 1985 as a senior vice president and started his consulting career.

He spent nearly four years in Indonesia, working with that country's government to generate foreign investors and economic development. He also did consulting work with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Ukraine.

He retired to Newport, R.I., where he spent much of his time sailing.

Burton Hoffman was born June 28, 1929, in New York. He joined the Army in the late 1940s and served in South Korea as a member of a military police unit guarding enemy prisoners.

He received a commendation for helping to quell a prison rebellion by shooting an inmate who tried to start a riot.

He attended the University of Rhode Island, where he worked on the student newspaper before starting his journalism career at small newspapers in New York.

His marriage to Diane Thompson ended in divorce. Survivors include two children, Jean Hoffman of Peaks Island, Maine, and Carl Hoffman of Washington; a sister; a brother; and five grandchildren.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company