WASHINGTON (AP) — Tom Raum, a versatile writer who covered three presidents, Congress and national politics and translated knotty economic issues for readers during 44 years with The Associated Press, died Friday. He was 74.
The cause of death was a brain injury from a fall last week at home, said his wife, Nora Raum.
Raum joined the AP in Tallahassee, Florida, and spent two years there before transferring to the Washington bureau in 1973. He arrived during the turmoil of the Watergate investigation that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. His first job in Washington was as an editor working the overnight shift.
He later became the AP’s chief congressional correspondent, from 1980-1984, coinciding with President Ronald Reagan’s first term. He covered Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, traveling around the world as he reported on their diplomatic initiatives.
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He also spent time on the economics beat, including covering the Great Recession, which began in December 2007 when George W. Bush was president and officially ended in June 2009 during President Barack Obama’s first term.
In the newsroom, he was known for helping junior colleagues wrestling with issues like the federal deficit.
“He was so versatile,” said Terence Hunt, former deputy bureau chief in Washington. “He could do everything, effortlessly, and he was a nice, graceful writer.”
Raum also was an avid sailor, said Jim Drinkard, a former AP Washington editor and reporter. “He was a good skipper, patient with people who didn’t know how to sail.”
On 9/11, Raum was preparing to leave for work from his home in Alexandria, Virginia, when the first plane commandeered by terrorists hit the World Trade Center in New York. He heard the second crash on the radio, driving to his subway stop.
“I instantly thought: Washington’s next,” he wrote in a brief recollection of that day, during which he worked “writing and piecing things together” to deliver the AP’s report.
Raum was born in suburban New Jersey in 1944, but he considered himself a New Yorker, his wife said. As a teen, he pushed a coffee cart up Lexington Avenue, and later he would relish taking AP colleagues on meandering walking tours of the city.
Raum originally had wanted to study physics, but “physics was a lot of math, so he switched to English,” said Nora Raum. He graduated from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
His English degree helped him land a job at the Tampa Times newspaper in Florida. As a police reporter, he was issued a camera to shoot pictures of accident and crime scenes, and he’d later write the photo captions. But Raum moved up quickly to covering the Florida legislature and writing about politics. He started with AP in 1971 in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee.
Raum “liked to write, and he got paid to write,” said his wife, a lawyer and radio journalist. “He reluctantly retired at 71.”
In addition to his wife, Tom Raum is survived by three children, a stepson and seven grandchildren.