Richard Ben Cramer, 62, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The Inquirer

Richard Ben Cramer worked at The Inquirer for seven years.
Richard Ben Cramer worked at The Inquirer for seven years.
Posted: January 09, 2013

Richard Ben Cramer, 62, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The Inquirer who became a best-selling author, died Monday, Jan. 7, of lung cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Mr. Cramer, of Chestertown, Md., wrote What It Takes: The Way to the White House about the 1988 presidential campaign. It has been hailed as one of the greatest books about electoral politics in America.

He also wrote the widely acclaimed Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, published in 2000.

Mr. Cramer won a 1979 Pulitzer for his reporting from the Middle East.

"He was really a gifted writer, a gifted storyteller," said William K. Marimow, a colleague of Mr. Cramer's at The Inquirer and now the newspaper's editor.

"His [Middle East] descriptions of the soldiers, the civilians, the heartache, and the tension of war enriched the pages of The Inquirer," Marimow said.

Journalists aspiring to be great writers still marvel at the opening paragraph of Mr. Cramer's 1981 Inquirer report from Belfast, Northern Ireland, about the funeral of Bobby Sands, a volunteer for the Provisional Irish Republican Army who died during a prison hunger strike:

"In a grimy gray drizzle, under ragged black flags that lifted and waved balefully in the fitful air; to the wail of a single piper, on streets winding through charred and blasted brick spray-painted with slogans of hate; by silent tens of thousands, past fathers holding sons face-forward that they might remember the day, past mothers rocking and shielding prams that held tomorrow's fighters, past old men who blew their rheumy noses and remembered their own days of rage . . . Bobby Sands was carried yesterday to a grave of raw Ulster mud."

Mr. Cramer joined The Inquirer in the mid-1970s to be the transportation beat writer, said John Carroll, the editor who hired him from the Baltimore Sun.

"I had no idea what I was getting," Carroll said. "I had no idea how special."

Carroll, who later became editor of the Los Angeles Times, said Mr. Cramer's great journalism came from "total immersion."

What It Takes, published at more than 1,000 pages, took Mr. Cramer six years to report and write, and covered six presidential candidates in depth.

Mr. Cramer was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y., and attended Johns Hopkins University and the Columbia School of Journalism. After graduating, he worked at the Sun for 31/2 years and then for seven years at The Inquirer.

He is survived by his wife, Joan, and a daughter, Ruby, from his marriage to Carolyn White.

Funeral arrangements were unavailable.


Contact Robert Moran

at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @RobertMoran215.

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