Francis Newton "Fritz" Littlejohn, 97, news director at ABC in 1954 when the network provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings, died of cardiac arrest Nov. 24 at his home in New York City.

The hearings were convened to investigate charges brought against the Army by the junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy.

The Army leveled charges of its own, maintaining that McCarthy's chief counsel, Roy M. Cohn, had pressured military officials to give privileges to a consultant on Cohn's staff, G. David Schine, who had been drafted into the Army during the Korean War.

All four networks were expected to carry the complete hearings live, but NBC and CBS decided at the last minute to stay with their profitable daytime soap operas. That left the DuMont network and ABC.

Although there were reservations within ABC, Mr. Littlejohn insisted on live coverage, gavel to gavel. He had the backing of ABC's president, Robert E. Kintner, and the network's vice president for news, John Charles Daly.

"He looked like a laid-back Southerner. He was anything but," Mort Lebow, a colleague, said of Mr. Littlejohn. "He had foresight. He knew the public was interested."

With an audience of about 20 million viewers at any one time, the landmark hearings lasted 36 days, for 188 hours of broadcast time. Their climax was an exchange between McCarthy and lawyer Joseph N. Welch, representing the Army.

After the senator insinuated that a young lawyer in Welch's firm harbored communist sympathies, Welch responded with a question that would become iconic: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

The Senate censured McCarthy in 1954, and he died of complications from alcoholism three years later.

Mr. Littlejohn was born on a farm in Pacolet, S.C., that had been in his family for more than 200 years. He graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1929 and played minor league baseball in Danville, Va., before becoming a sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer in 1931.

He stayed with the Observer until 1937, when he joined the Associated Press as a sports reporter; he later became a news editor. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and joined ABC in 1945 as director of news, special events and public affairs.

He left ABC in 1961, shortly after Daly departed over a dispute with the network involving control of news programs. Daly was replaced by James C. Hagerty, former press secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1963, Mr. Littlejohn became a media consultant to the U.S. Public Health Service's fledgling water pollution control program, and in 1967 he was named deputy to the director of the Voice of America and head of the English-language division. He covered every political convention from 1948 to 1972 before retiring in 1973.

Afterward, he spent time at his second home, on Fire Island in New York, where he enjoyed fishing and gardening.

An article he wrote for Reporter magazine in the 1960s described the old neighborhood where he lived on Manhattan's East Side before it was supplanted by the construction of the U.N. headquarters:

"Beneath the windows, boys played stick-ball in the traffic. Across the way, ancient women lined their window sills with bed pillows to make their daylong leaning comfortable. Old boys in caps bowled in the abandoned slaughter pens the game of boccie, just as you have seen in the countryside in southern Italy or under the trees of the Champ de Mars. Family washing fluttered from retractable clothes lines on a display universal and colorful -- now supplanted by the Avenue of Flags on U.N. Plaza."

His 90th birthday present was a dictionary. By the time of his death, it was dog-eared; he read it every day.

Mr. Littlejohn's first wife, Edith Killian Littlejohn, died in 1958.

Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Ann Littlejohn of Manhattan.