William Safire

Columnist / Speechwriter

Born: 17 December 1929
Died: 27 September 2009 (cancer)
Birthplace: New York, New York
Best known as: Political columnist for The New York Times, 1973-2005

Name at birth: William Safir

Conservative figurehead William Safire was an author and speechwriter for Richard Nixon before winning a Pulitzer Prize during his 30-year run as a columnist for The New York Times. Safire was running his own public relations firm when he joined the staff of newly-elected President Nixon in 1968. Safire penned the famous 1969 "nattering nabobs of negativism" speech for Spiro Agnew, along with many speeches for Nixon himself. Safire left the White House in 1973 and began writing a twice-weekly column for The New York Times, where he provided a reliable conservative voice on the editorial page. He was soon one of the country's leading conservative voices, known in particular for his steady support of Israel and for his fervent backing of the invasion of Iraq after the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Safire won the Pulitzer in 1978 for his caustic columns on alleged financial shenanigans by Bert Lance, budget director for President Jimmy Carter. The next year Safire also began writing "On Language," a weekly column on grammar, word origins and the proper use of English which he continued until a few weeks before his death. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2006. Safire wrote more than a dozen books, including the political novels Full Disclosure (1977) and Scandalmonger (2000).

Extra credit: He was born with the last name Safir, but added an "e" later to match the pronunciation... Safire attended Syracuse University for two years but didn't graduate... He married the former Helene Julius in 1962. They had a son, Mark, and a daughter, Annabel... Another speechwriter in the Nixon White House was Pat Buchanan.

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