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Anthony Lewis, Journalist Who Transformed Supreme Court Coverage, Dies

Journalist Anthony Lewis in 2003.
Matthew Peyton
Getty Images
Journalist Anthony Lewis in 2003.

Anthony Lewis, whose "thorough knowledge" of the Supreme Court's work "allowed him to write authoritatively and accessibly about difficult points," has died, The New York Times writes.

Lewis, twice a Pulitzer Prize winner, was 85.

The Times, where Lewis worked as a reporter, columnist and bureau chief at various times, and The Boston Globe report that the journalist's wife, retired Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, said the cause of death was complications of renal and heart failure. He died at his home in Cambridge, Mass., according to the Times.

The Globe reminds readers that:

"Mr. Lewis, an expert on constitutional law, won the Pulitzer for national reporting for the Washington Daily News in 1955. He won again for national reporting for The New York Times in 1963. He was the author of the column 'Abroad at Home' for the Times from 1969 to 2001."

On the Times' website, University of Washington scholar Ronald K.L. Collins says Lewis "brought context to the law. He had an incredible talent in making the law not only intelligible but also in making it compelling."

Lewis received the 1963 Pulitzer for national reporting, in recognition of "his distinguished reporting of the proceedings of the United States Supreme Court during the year, with particular emphasis on the coverage of the decision in the reapportionment case and its consequences in many of the States of the Union."

The Times notes that the case was "Baker v. Carr, in which the Supreme Court opened legislative districting to oversight by the federal courts. Mr. Lewis did more than cover the decision; an article on legislative apportionment that he had written for The Harvard Law Review was cited in the decision at Footnote 27."

His 1955 Pulitzer, also for national reporting, recognized Lewis for:

"Publishing a series of articles which were adjudged directly responsible for clearing Abraham Chasanow, an employee of the U.S. Navy Department, and bringing about his restoration to duty with an acknowledgment by the Navy Department that it had committed a grave injustice in dismissing him as a security risk. Mr. Lewis received the full support of his newspaper in championing an American citizen, without adequate funds or resources for his defense, against an unjust act by a government department. This is in the best tradition of American journalism."

Chasanow had been accused of being a risk to national security. When Chasanow died in 1989, Lewis wrote an appreciation.

"Abraham Chasanow died the other day, and attention should be paid," Lewis said. "He was not a famous person; he disliked the limelight. But when he was victimized at a time of fear and injustice in this country, he fought back. He made a difference."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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