NEW YORK (AP) — Ward Just, a highly regarded political and war correspondent for The Washington Post who later drew upon his experiences for such acclaimed novel as “An Unfinished Season” and “Echo House,” has died. He was 84.
Just’s wife, Sarah Catchpole, told The Associated Press that he died Thursday at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He had been suffering from Lewy body dementia.
A native of Michigan City, Indiana, and the son and grandson of newspaper publishers, he had covered overseas conflicts for Newsweek before becoming one of the first hires by the Post’s managing editor Ben Bradlee, who started his job in 1965. Assigned to cover the Vietnam War, Just wrote hundreds of stories and survived wounds sustained from a grenade thrown during an attack by the North Vietnamese.
He returned to the United States in 1967 and the following year covered the presidential election won by Richard Nixon and and published a book that openly questioned the war, “To What End? Report from Vietnam.”
Bradlee had also worked with Just at Newsweek, and in his memoir “A Good Life” would remember him as “bright, full of ideas and energy, and a wonderful writer.” Bradlee had been looking for a “new Hemingway,” who could “write like an angel” but never lose sight of the facts. He believed Just was the right man.
“(He) found drama everywhere he looked — the drama that turned details into truth and isolated events into history,” Bradlee wrote. “Sometimes Just would get a single quote that would tell an entire story.”
Over the next 50 years, Just was a prolific author of politically and socially conscious fiction, his influences including Hemingway and Henry James. “Echo House” was a National Book Award finalist in 1997 and “An Unfinished Season” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005. His other novels included “The American Ambassador,” “A Dangerous Friend” and “Exiles in the Garden.”
Just was married three times, most recently to Catchpole. He had three children and six grandchildren.