Ben A. Franklin, 78, a retired New York Times reporter long based in Washington who covered civil rights battles, strip-mining dangers and a gallery of corrupt union and political leaders, died Nov. 19 at his home in Garrett Park. He had lung cancer.
Mr. Franklin joined the newspaper's Washington bureau in 1959, initially overseeing the library. Within two years, he was part of a reporting team that fanned across the South during the backlash to racial desegregation efforts.
As a Middle Atlantic correspondent, Mr. Franklin reported extensively from Appalachia. He focused on the hardships and personalities of the poor mining region, including the effects of strip mining and the widespread cases of black lung. In 1970, he received an award from Berea College in Kentucky for his work illuminating Appalachia.
Simultaneously, Mr. Franklin spent many years looking into corruption allegations against United Mine Workers of America President W.A. "Tony" Boyle. Boyle later received three life sentences for ordering the 1970 murders of a reformist challenger, Joseph A. "Jock" Yablonski, and Yablonski's wife and daughter.
Mr. Franklin was running a temporary Baltimore bureau in 1973 when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (R) was forced to resign from office amid allegations of participating in a bribery and extortion scandal dating from his time as Maryland's governor. Eventually, Agnew pleaded no contest to tax evasion charges.
For his work on the Agnew story, Mr. Franklin received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists.
After covering several other high-profile stories, including the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear-reactor accident in Pennsylvania, Mr. Franklin left the New York Times in 1991. It was slightly earlier than planned and followed a tangle with A.M. Rosenthal, the executive editor, over an internal disagreement.
He spent two years writing for Nucleonics Week, a McGraw-Hill publication. Since 1993, he had been editor of the Washington Spectator, a liberal-leaning newsletter focused on politics.
Benjamin Arthur Franklin was born in New York on Nov. 12, 1927. His father, Benjamin Allan Franklin, was a night editor at the old New York Herald Tribune. His mother, Zilpha, did press-relations work for several federal government health agencies.
He was a 1948 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1950. After Coast Guard service in the Atlantic during the Korean War, he rejoined the Washington Star, a newspaper he had briefly worked for before the war.
In 1954, he began a five-year stint in Washington as a reporter for ABC Radio commentator Edward P. Morgan.
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Jane Burrage Franklin of Garrett Park; three daughters, Abigail Plumer of New York, Elizabeth Franklin of Urbana, and Clare Duran of Geneva; a sister, Zilpha Platky of Wheaton; and five grandchildren.