It’s the birthday of journalist and columnist Jack Anderson (1922) (books by this author). He was born in Long Beach, California, to Mormon parents, who moved the family to Utah when Jack was two years old. He got his first newspaper job at 12, editing the Boy Scout page of the Mormon Church’s paper, The Deseret News. Before long he was making seven dollars a week covering local fires and traffic accidents for The Murray Eagle. He spent most of his professional life on the syndicated “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column, which in its heyday was carried by over a thousand papers.
Anderson wasn’t above some questionable tactics like eavesdropping and rifling through garbage cans, but he never shirked what he saw as a moral duty to keep Washington honest, even when it meant pursuing and exposing formerly close friends like Joseph McCarthy. As an investigative reporter with a flair for courting disgruntled low-level government employees and convincing them to sneak him classified documents, he was not especially popular among Washington powerbrokers. Richard Nixon put Anderson on his infamous Enemies List. J. Edgar Hoover called him “lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures.” G. Gordon Liddy plotted his murder. In 1975, the Washington Post reported that Liddy considered poisoning the aspirin in Anderson’s medicine cabinet; Anderson credited his large family with saving his life in that instance: “I had a wife and nine children, and nobody wanted to risk the chance one of them might get a headache,” he wrote in his autobiography.