Leon Daniel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Leon Daniel
Born (1931-08-08)August 8, 1931[1]
Etowah, Tennessee[2]
Died March 19, 2006(2006-03-19) (aged 74)[1]
Glen Ellyn, Illinois, United States[2]
Nationality US
Education University of Tennessee
Occupation National Correspondent, and Managing Editor for International News for UPI
Years active 1956–97
Partner(s) Judith Paterson[2]
Children Lillian Daniel[2]

Leon Daniel (August 8, 1931 – March 19, 2006) was a reporter, manager, and senior editor of United Press International (UPI).[2][3] He was considered to be the "gold standard" in wire service reporting.

Daniel is most well known for his reporting during the Vietnam War where he remained while many foreign correspondents fled the country, as well as for his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s.[3] Daniel wrote one of his more notable pieces, published on June 12, 1977, on the escape from prison of James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.[4]

Early career and UPI[edit]

At age 19, Daniel enlisted in the Marines and became a rifle squad leader during the Korean War.[4] He was awarded the Purple Heart following shrapnel wounds to his ankle.[4][5] After returning from service in the Korean War, Daniel attended the University of Tennessee, and shortly after, began his career in journalism by joining the Knoxville Journal.[4]

In 1956, Daniel became a reporter for United Press International in their Nashville office and was promoted to manager in their Knoxville branch in 1959. He later was promoted to report at UPI's southern headquarters in Atlanta in 1960.[6][7]

Civil Rights Movement[edit]

Daniel began reporting on the civil rights movement between 1960–1966 during his placement in UPI's headquarters in Atlanta.[4] Colleagues noted that his coverage of the civil rights movement was "the story he considered the most important he ever reported."[6] His coverage included stories from Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, among others.[4][8] Daniel was responsible for coverage of the events related to desegregation occurring in the southern U.S., such as "The Battle of Ole Miss" where riots broke out at the University of Mississippi in protest of the enrollment of the black student, James Meredith.[9] He also covered the Selma to Montgomery march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 in protest of the recent, violent incident known as "Bloody Sunday".[8] Daniel did cover civil rights-related events in Philadelphia, Mississippi, however, where he reported on three missing (later found) and murdered civil rights workers. He commented that the populace at the time was "a very dangerous town for any outsiders, not just civil rights workers."[4]

One of Daniel's more notable pieces, published on June 12, 1977, reported the escape of James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., from Tennessee's Brushy Mountain State Prison.[4][10]

Vietnam War[edit]

Daniel began reporting on the Vietnam War in 1966.[4] He remained in Saigon as South Vietnam fell, being one of the few foreign correspondents to do so.[11] When asked about why he chose to stay, he jokingly said, "I had to. The AP correspondent was there."[12] He reported on the lack of military presence within South Vietnam during northern advances into the country,[13] on major battles occurring within South Vietnam with joint U.S. forces,[14] and the threat of invading Laos.[6][15] He also reported directly to Vietnamese military officials, such as General Le Minh Dao regarding the threat of North Vietnamese forces occupying Xuan Loc.[16]

He is known for writing the UPI headline, "Saigon government surrenders," when the capital, Saigon, was occupied by Northern Vietnamese forces.[17][18] He was known for taking part in UPI antics in Vietnam as he was accused of stealing a statue in a Saigon bar, having been referred to local Vietnamese civilian police for the offense.[19] He was expelled from Vietnam by the new Communist rulers, and was later expelled from Thailand and declared persona non grata for writing articles detrimental to the Thai government,[2][20][21] possibly violating Thai military secrecy, although this was denied by both UPI and Daniel.[22] UPI protested against the expulsion of Daniel from Vietnam, noting that "Daniel's accuracy and dedication to the journalistic profession is outstanding and we have every confidence in him as a representative of UPI."[23]

Later career[edit]

In 1980, after extensive press work in the U.S., Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic, Daniel moved to Washington, D.C., to become UPI's national correspondent and later, the managing editor for international news. He retired in 1997,[2] but continued to write op-ed pieces, such as one about preemptive U.S. invasion of Iraq following the September 11 attacks.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Daniel died from complications of angioplasty, and was survived by his partner, daughter, and two grandchildren.[3][24] Daniel was referred to as a "veteran correspondent" and "the gold standard" among wire service reporters by colleagues[4][8] and "a tough competitor ... and also was the most amiable of men, endearing him to colleagues and soldiers alike," by one reporter from rival news organization, Associated Press.[4]

In 2006, the University of Maryland's College of Journalism created the Judith Paterson/Leon Daniel Journalism Scholarship as a tribute to "long-time companion Leon Daniel, a legendary journalist and war correspondent of his era, and former United Press International Bureau Chief in London."[25][26] Judith Paterson was Daniel's companion[3] and has since retired from her position at the university as a journalism professor.[25][27]


  1. ^ a b "National Gravesite Locater". Department of Veteran Affairs. Retrieved July 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Leon Daniel, 74; Covered Wars, Civil Rights Movement for UPI", Washington Post, March 23, 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d "Leon Daniel; U.P.I. Correspondent, 74", The New York Times, March 27, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Lord, Lewis (March 22, 2006). "Leon Daniel, UPI Reporter for 36 Years, Died Sunday at Age 74". AllBusiness. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Purple Heart Recipient". The National Purple Heart Recipient Hall of Honor. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c "Viet Cong Take Over Presidential Palace as Troops, Tanks Pour In", Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1975.
  7. ^ "Thirty Years at 300 Millimeters", New York Times, April 29, 2005.
  8. ^ a b c Kuettner, Al (2006). The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-679-73565-6. 
  9. ^ Kuettner, Al (2006). March to a promised land: the civil rights files of a white reporter, 1952–1968. Herndon, VA: Capital Books. ISBN 1-933102-28-4. 
  10. ^ Daniel, Leon (June 12, 1977). "James Earl Ray escapes from Tennessee Prison". Harlan Daily Enterprise. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  11. ^ "The Press: They Stayed", Time Magazine, May 12, 1975.
  12. ^ "Leon Daniel, a top war journalist". The Namibian. Namibia Press Agency/AP. March 3, 2006. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  13. ^ "US Bombs in North; Saigon Threatened", Milwaukee Journal, April 6, 1972.
  14. ^ "Major Battle Underway in S. Vietnam", The Dispatch, February 4, 1971.
  15. ^ "US Leaves Question of Laos Invasion Open", Boston Globe, February 5, 1971.
  16. ^ "White Christmas – The Fall of Saigon", Dirck Halstead.
  17. ^ "Leon Daniel, 74; Reporter Covered Vietnam War for UPI", Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2006
  18. ^ "55 days: the fall of South Vietnam"
  19. ^ "Pen and Sword: American War Correspondents, 1898–1975"
  20. ^ "Press Protest", Palm Beach Post, May 17, 1972.
  21. ^ "Newsman ordered out", Reading Eagle, May 15, 1972.
  22. ^ "Protests Ouster Of UPI Man", Stars and Stripes, May 18, 1972.
  23. ^ "Expulsion of Newsman Protested", The Dispatch, May 17, 1972.
  24. ^ "Leon Daniel ; Veteran newsman; UPI foreign correspondent set 'gold standard' for wire services", Chicago Tribune, March 22, 2006.
  25. ^ a b "Judith Paterson/Leon Daniel Journalism Scholarship – Scholarship History". University of Maryland. Retrieved July 20, 2011. 
  26. ^ Whitehurst, Ken. "Academic Scholarships Named For Downholders". The Downhold Project. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  27. ^ "UA Cason Award To Honor Albert Murray; Next Day Symposium To Host Renowned Writers, Pulitzer Winners". University of Alabama. Archived from the original on August 24, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2011.