Longtime LA Times journalist Jack Nelson dies

Journalists are paying tribute to a former Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief whose reporting helped to boost the paper’s national profile. Jack Nelson was 80 years old when he died of pancreatic cancer today.

Alabama-born Jack Nelson wrote and edited sports for his high school newspaper. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he joined the staff of the Atlanta Constitution.

In 1960, Nelson won a Pulitzer Prize for his series that exposed rampant patient abuse and neglect at a public mental hospital. The Los Angeles Times hired him in 1965 as its Atlanta bureau chief.

In ways that infuriated local officials and scooped his competitors, Nelson reported on many of the most significant events of the civil rights era. More than once he revealed law enforcement’s complicity in attacks against nonviolent protesters.

After Nelson moved to the Times’ Washington D.C. bureau, he wrote a groundbreaking eyewitness account of the Watergate burglary that eventually toppled Richard Nixon’s presidency. Before he retired eight years ago, Nelson developed the Times’ capitol bureau into one of the biggest and most respected of any newspaper.

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