Robert St. John, 100, a foreign correspondent and author whose subjects ranged from Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion to his own career, died Feb. 6 at his home in St. Mary's County. He had a form of leukemia.
From Ernest Hemingway to Al Capone to a succession of Middle Eastern leaders, Mr. St. John knew some of the most remarkable figures of the past century. Some were more auspicious encounters than others.
In the 1920s, he published a newspaper in Cicero, Ill., and exposed brothels and gambling dens run by Capone's mob. He was beaten senseless.
He worked for the Associated Press in Eastern Europe at the start of World War II and was shot in the right leg by a Nazi airplane when traveling on a Greek troop train. The bullet stayed in his leg.
"I still carry it as a reminder of my World War II," he told The Washington Post.
In 1942, NBC hired Mr. St. John as a news commentator, and he was on air for more than 100 hours after the Allied invasion of Europe began June 6, 1944. He later reported on the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Japan.
He lost his NBC job when his name appeared in "Red Channels," a 1950s pamphlet listing alleged Communist sympathizers. He spent 15 years in Switzerland, getting book contracts from a supportive Doubleday editor and working as a freelance journalist covering conflicts in the Middle East.
He settled in the Washington area in 1965 and lectured at area museums. He was quoted widely by those who admired the breadth of his experience, usually on war and its sickening sights.
He also hosted dinner parties for dignitaries and told The Post about one Israeli leader's preference for scotch and soda: "The New York Times once said that Itzhak Rabin drank only ginger ale, but I know better."
Robert William St. John, the son of a chemist, was born in Chicago and grew up in Oak Park, Ill.
Hemingway was one of his high school classmates, and both took the same writing class. Their instructor, whose standards apparently were impossible to meet, discouraged both from literary careers.
After Navy service in World War I, Mr. St. John enrolled at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. He was expelled for the unflattering stories about the college president he wrote as a campus correspondent for the Hartford Courant.
He worked for a succession of papers before and after starting his own in Cicero. His most memorable story was the one about Capone.
He said he asked the Cicero police chief to swear out warrants for the men who beat him up. The chief asked him to come back the next day.
He did and was surprised to see Capone, peeling off $100 bills from a wad of cash in his jacket pocket. " 'The boys made a mistake,' " he quoted Capone as saying. " 'I've always told them never to bother newspapermen. I have a racket, you have a racket, too. And I can't take ads in the Chicago Tribune and advertise my establishments, but every time you write what you call an expose, you advertise for me.' "
Mr. St. John said he did not take the money.
His first book was "From the Land of Silent People," published in 1942 about his AP wartime experiences. At his death, he was working on his 23rd book.
His marriage to Eda Guerrieri St. John ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 37 years, Ruth Bass St. John; and a half-brother.