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William Neikirk, White House and economics writer for Chicago Tribune, dies at 82 of coronavirus

The Chicago Tribune’s William Neikirk in 2005.
The Chicago Tribune’s William Neikirk in 2005. (Chicago Tribune)
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William R. Neikirk, an award-winning economics and political journalist who spent nearly 35 years with the Chicago Tribune and served as White House correspondent during the Clinton administration, died Aug. 27 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 82.

The cause was dementia and complications from the novel coronavirus, said a daughter, Christa Neikirk.

Mr. Neikirk wrote about politics and economics for the Associated Press before joining the Tribune’s Washington bureau in 1974. He also had stints as Chicago-based associate managing editor of financial news and chief Washington correspondent before retiring in 2008 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He was honored for his business and political coverage, including the 1995 White House Correspondents’ Association’s Merriman Smith Award for presidential reporting.

His nonfiction books included “Volcker: A Portrait of the Money Man” (1987), about Paul A. Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1987, and “The Work Revolution: How High-Tech Is Sweeping Away Old Jobs and Industries and Creating New Ones in New Places” (1983), written with Gail Garfield Schwartz.

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He also wrote a novel “The Copperhead Club,” which a friend described as a thriller based in Washington and the hills of Kentucky where he grew up, in a family of nine brothers and two sisters. He wrote the novel in longhand on yellow legal pads while riding the Metro rail from his home in Arlington to work in Washington. It was self-published in 2015.

William Robert Neikirk was born in Irvine, Ky., on Jan. 6, 1938. His father was a railroad worker, his mother a homemaker.

He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, then became a political writer for the AP covering the state legislatures in Kentucky and Louisiana. In 1967, he covered the trial of 18 men charged with conspiracy in the murders of three young civil rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — outside Philadelphia, Miss., three years earlier.

In 2007, he was president of the Gridiron Club, an exclusive organization of Washington journalists that hosts an annual dinner at which top government officials are satirized in song and dance.

In 1960, he married Ruth Clary. In addition to his wife, of Arlington, survivors include three children, Greg Neikirk of Charlotte, John Neikirk of Arlington and Christa Lynn Neikirk of Rockville, Md.; and two grandchildren.

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