The cause was respiratory failure, said his son, Bobby Asher.
For 30 years, Mr. Asher was also a part-time teacher of journalism and writing at Howard University, one of the few white faculty members at the predominantly black institution. In his early years at The Post, starting in 1959, he was an unofficial mentor and coach to dozens of young reporters.
One of his early mentees was Leonard Downie Jr., who later became The Post’s executive editor. He described Mr. Asher as “a scout master for our group of new young city reporters who sat around him. . . . He dispensed good advice and humor that helped with our work and morale.”
In a journalism career spanning five decades, Mr. Asher once described his “toughest job ever” at the newspaper as his first: serving as head copy aide and supervising a young staff of men and women who did odd jobs and ran errands around the newsroom.
He quickly moved into a reporting role, covering police and District affairs. His first decade at The Post was in an era before the newspaper achieved the national prominence that came with its coverage of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate scandal in the 1970s.
It was about that time that Mr. Asher transitioned to writing editorials. For many years, he was “responsible for virtually every Post editorial about local and state politics in Maryland and Virginia, and there wasn’t a county council member or state legislator he didn’t know,” Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, wrote in an email.
Jackson Diehl, The Post’s deputy editorial page editor, wrote: “When local elections came round he tirelessly interviewed candidates for local county councils and the Maryland and Virginia legislatures. His decisions on The Post’s endorsements made and broke many political careers.” One hapless politician, whom Mr. Asher accused of having failed to learn his history lessons, was described as having taken “a stroll down memory-impaired lane.”
Mr. Asher’s work may have lacked the glamour of international diplomacy and the drama of high-stakes presidential contests. But for Post readers in the Washington area, it had a direct impact on their daily lives.
In 1991, Mr. Asher received a Eugene Meyer Award, named for the father of then-Post Publisher Katharine Graham. At the awards ceremony, she admiringly teased Mr. Asher, saying, “He gets excited — truly excited — over who will become dogcatcher in Prince William County.”
For an editorial on a New York Avenue construction project that caused a traffic tie-up in the 1980s, Mr. Asher put on a hard hat and accompanied information officer Tara Hamilton underground to see for himself the network of old pipes and systems that delayed the construction project.
“Snow was and always will be a major topic in D.C.,” observed Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works. “Bob and the editorial board,” she said, could be counted on for “how the city and the airports handled that four-letter word.”
Mr. Asher gradually retired during the 2000s.
Robert Louis Asher was born in Washington on May 10, 1936. His father was an international economist, and his mother was active in several volunteer agencies. He graduated from Sidwell Friends School, a Quaker school in the District, and in 1957 from Amherst College in Massachusetts.
He was a morning-drive disc jockey in Dover, Del., before coming to The Post. He would later entertain newspaper colleagues with imitations of his “radio voice.” Former Post managing editor Robert G. Kaiser remembered being “impressed by the fact that he really sounded like someone in the radio. He had a mellifluous voice, smooth and resonant, when he turned it on.”
In 1963, he married Jane Deegan, then a secretary to Post cartoonist Herblock. Both would later serve on the board of the Herb Block Foundation.
In addition to his wife and son, both of Washington, survivors include a daughter, Julie Asher, also of Washington; and six grandchildren.
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