Veteran British newsman Pat Heffernan, who worked for Reuters in America for many years, and was the only foreigner to be elected president of the Washington Press Club, has died in Florida after a brief illness. He was aged 96.
Heffernan started in journalism in the ’30s, working for the Central News Agency in Fleet Street.
During World War Two he served in East Africa and Burma, ending the war as major.
After his return to the UK, he moved to the US in 1946 to join Reuters in New York.
He worked for 11 years at the United Nations, and then for 20 years as Reuters’ chief correspondent in Washington.
He covered five American presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Gerald Ford.
His election as president of the Washington Press Club in 1966 was so unprecedented it necessitated a special Act of Congress to permit a non-US citizen to head a corporation holding a liquor licence.
It provoked congratulations from prime minister Harold Wilson and both President Lyndon Johnson and his successor, Richard Nixon.
Both harked back to the British burning down the White House.
“I think there is no more heartening evidence of our accepting bygones as bygones than your election as president of the National Press Club,” wrote Johnson.
Heffernan, who was of Irish ancestry, finally became an American citizen in 1996.
In l965 he was awarded the OBE, and made a CBE in 1970.