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Roberts, Chalmers M(cGeagh) 1910–2005

Roberts, Chalmers M(cGeagh) 1910–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 18, 1910, in Pittsburgh, PA; died of congestive heart failure April 8, 2005, in Bethesda, MD. Roberts was a longtime reporter for the Washington Post, serving as chief diplomatic correspondent through the 1950s and 1960s. After completing a degree at Amherst College in 1933, he worked briefly for the Washington Post as a cub reporter before taking time to travel through Europe and Asia. He worked briefly for the Japan Times and then returned to America to become assistant managing editor for the Washington Daily News from 1939 to 1941. Roberts was working as the Sunday editor for the Washington Times-Herald when the United States declared war on Japan. Enlisting the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was assigned to the Office of War Information. After the war he had the chance to visit both Nagasaki and Hiroshima to report on the nuclear devastation there. After returning to civilian life, he got a job as picture editor for Life magazine, but was fired the next year. Roberts decided he preferred reporting, and found work as a writer for the Washington Post in 1949. His ability to make contacts with politicians and other important figures, as well as his writing skills, helped him quickly rise to chief diplomatic correspondent in 1953. Preferring the life of the reporter over that of editor, Roberts remained active in this role, covering stories ranging from the effects of the cold war to the Watts riots. The Pentagon Papers story was one of his major achievements, and focused on a highly sensitive series of documents that were leaked to the press from a government insider. The documents discussed U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam, and the federal government petitioned the courts to try and stop newspapers from publishing them. The New York Times and the Washington Post were the first two newspapers to gain access to the Pentagon Papers. Roberts became the lead writer on the story for his newspaper and was consequently made a defendant in the case. That he and his colleagues successfully defended their rights to print the story marked a significant defence of the First Amendment rights of the press. Roberts retired from the Washington Post in 1971, but he continued to write stories, including a column for the San Diego Union that ran until 1986. He was also the author of several books, including the memoirs First Rough Draft: A Journalist's Journal of Our Times (1973) and How Did I Get Here So Fast?: Rhetorical Questions and Available Answers from a Long and Happy Life (1991) and the history The Washington Post: The First One Hundred Years (1977).



Roberts, Chalmers M., First Rough Draft: A Journalist's Journal of Our Times, Praeger (New York, NY), 1973.

Roberts, Chalmers M., How Did I Get Here So Fast?: Rhetorical Questions and Available Answers from a Long and Happy Life, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1991.


Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2005, p. B15.

Washington Post, April 9, 2005, p. B6.

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