Television journalist John R. Harter II, seen at the National Press Club in 2006, specialized in transportation issues. (WJLA)

John R. Harter II, a television journalist for Washington’s ABC affiliate who anchored morning and evening news broadcasts, reported from Capitol Hill and conducted man-on-the-street interviews, died Feb. 17 at his home in Washington. He was 79.

The cause was heart ailments, said his wife, Hilary H. Harter.

In 1966, Mr. Harter joined the news staff of what was then WMAL and, two years later, covered the riots that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He later made transportation issues a journalistic specialty. For three decades, he wrote, directed and appeared on camera in television videos on aspects of automobiles and driving, which he called “The John Harter Road Test.”

He was also an avocational racecar driver and had competed in Sports Car Club of America races and demolition derbies. He was a restorer of old cars and a founder of the Washington Automotive Press Association, which gave him a lifetime achievement award when he retired in 2006. He subsequently wrote freelance articles about cars.

John Robert Harter was born in Washington on Feb. 7, 1940. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1958 and from American University in 1962. In high school and college, he was a television production assistant at Channels 4 and 5 and assisted in the coverage of the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

In addition to his interest in cars, he was also a hiker. Over three summers, he hiked the 2,181-mile distance of the Appalachian Trail.

His marriages to Jane Bissett and Ann Koch ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife since 2003, Hilary Halsey Harter of Washington; a son from his first marriage, John R. Harter III of New York City; and two grandchildren.