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He was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. He graduated from The Stony Brook School in 1933 and graduated from Bard College, then a branch of Columbia University. During the Great Depression, he joined the Communist movement and wrote for the New Masses. In 1939, as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, he broke with Stalinism and became an anticommunist liberal.
In the early 1940s, he was an assistant editor at The Nation. He joined The New Yorker in 1944, and from December 1948 through his death, he wrote its "Letter from Washington" column. His reporting got him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he periodically contributed to Esquire, Harper's, and The American Scholar; now and then he reported on American matters for Britain's Spectator. He died of emphysema in Poughkeepsie, New York.
His papers from 1931-1968 are housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.
- Howe & Hummel: Their True and Scandalous History (1947)
- The General and the President (with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1951)
- Affairs of State: The Eisenhower Years (1956)
- Senator Joe McCarthy (1959)
- The American Establishment and Other Reports, Opinions, and Speculations (1962)
- The Goldwater Caper (1965)
- Waist Deep in the Big Muddy: Personal Reflections on 1968 (1968)
- Arrivals and Departures: A Journalist's Memoirs (1976)
- Final Reports: Personal Reflections on Politics and History in Our Time (1984, published posthumously, foreword by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)
- "R. H. Rovere, magazine columnist, author, dies. Political Affairs Columnist Was 64". New York Times. November 23, 1979. Retrieved 2010-09-13. "Richard H. Rovere, 64, who wrote commentaries on American politics as a columnist for The New Yorker magazine, died Friday of emphysema in Vassar Brothers ..."
- Allen, Frederick Lewis (April 1944). Personal & Otherwise: Honorable Mixed Fry. Harper's, pgs. 488-490.
- Logan, Andy. (December 10, 1979). Obituary: Richard Rovere. The New Yorker, pgs. 218-219.
- The American Establishment and Other Reports, Opinions, and Speculations from Archive.org
- The Goldwater Caper from Archive.org
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