Crusading journalist Sherrill dies at 89

Robert Sherrill

Robert G. Sherrill — a fiery iconoclast who wrote for numerous U.S. newspapers and magazines, including The Charleston Gazette — died Aug. 19 in Florida at age 89.

Sherrill was a longtime columnist for The Nation, where he wrote a 1986 report titled “One Paper That Wouldn’t Shut Up,” outlining Gazette attacks on excess profits of the insurance industry. He also wrote many book reviews and commentaries for the Gazette.

Sherrill was born in 1924 in Frogtown, Ga., the son of an itinerant news reporter who taught the boy how to hop freight trains during the Depression. He served in the Merchant Marine and earned degrees from Pepperdine University, the University of Texas and the University of Minnesota. He worked at various newspapers and The Texas Observer before joining The Nation in 1965.

He was placed on President Richard M. Nixon’s famed “enemies list” and was denied a White House press pass. The American Civil Liberties Union sued and won him a press pass, but he declined to take it.

Sherrill wrote several books: “The Accidental President,” attacking Lyndon Johnson; “The Saturday Night Special,” about pistol murders in America; “Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music,” about armed forces courts; “Gothic Politics in the Deep South,” about Dixie racism; and “The Last Kennedy,” about Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick scandal. In partnership with former Gazette reporter Harry Ernst, he wrote “The Drugstore Liberal,” about Hubert Humphrey.

A New York Times obituary said Sherrill “skewered right and left” and “ruffled feathers of various colors.” A Washington Post obituary called him “an inexhaustible loner” with “muckraking zeal aimed at the powerful.”

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