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Robert Conley - NPR’s All Things Consider Host & NBC, New York Times Reporter Dies at Age 85

NPR, NBC and New York Times newsman and communications pioneer Robert Conley (85) passed away Saturday, November 16th, with his family by his side in Virginia, outside of Washington D.C.


Newsman and communications pioneer Robert Conley died Saturday evening at his home in Virginia, outside of Washington, DC. He was 85. He had recently been diagnosed with parotid cancer, which quickly spread to his brain. Like everything in life, he faced it with courage, strength, grace, determination and relent.

He is survived by his wife Mary Jane, his five children, Jonathan (and his wife Colleen), Dermot, Helen, Andrew and Shelagh, and three grandchildren, Mark, Matthew and Daniel.

“Robert passed away with his family near him, in peace. His life was an adventure at every turn and leaves us with an indelible mark of roads to travel and dreams to achieve,” his wife and children said in a statement. “None of us will be the same without him.” “He was a best friend as much as he was a father.”

He served in the Korean War, along side Robert Dole and others, of which after honorary discharge, he attended Brown University, where he met his wife who was attending Rhode Island School of Design.

As one of America’s most ground-breaking newsmen and journalists, Conley reported on events spanning the globe. Many know him from his work with NBC’s Huntley & Brinkley. He was also NBC’s Bureau Chief in London, Rome, Africa and the Middle East. Conley worked with National Geographic, was a front page reporter and Bureau Chief for the New York Times, as well as Editorial with The Washington Post.

One of his proudest accomplishments, outside of his family, was behind the curtain - his involvement in the creation of something that would change the way news was shared: the formation of NPR.  He was on Capital Hill with a handful of his colleagues, making sure the Public Service Broadcast Act was addressed and passed. From this, his journey to work with his partners to create NPR through a network of established stations began.  As NPR’s first General Manager, Conley created a news program to bring the audience into the story, known as the Peabody Award winning All Things Considered. And to coin a phrase, it’s been “live from Washington” ever since.  He not only reported events that shaped the world, he influenced the way the world listened. Innovation and societal progress was something second nature to him.

He worked with 4 U.S. Presidents, and had been a member of the White House Press Corps. No story was untouchable to him, whether it is Washington politics, African plight, Middle Eastern events or American international involvements. His voice to the world included interviews with the King of Jordan, Nelson Mandela, and coverage of Reaganism, Iraq, and those involved with the Iran Contra crisis.

He was in South African interviewing and covering Mandela’s work, when Mandela became imprisoned – where Conley too was imprisoned as a supporter of Mandela’s philosophies – only to be broken out by forces. To Conley, Mandela will always be Tata, and they remained in touch throughout his life.

Always a maverick, in the 70’s Conley worked with legal teams in Washington and led a coalition that successfully reformed federal copyright laws for the first time in decades, in what he and other artists saw as a growing digital civilization.

He had appearances and interviews on the Today Show, Face the Nation and CSPAN. He went on to become part of VOA and the expanding reach of their networks. He loved to gain and share knowledge. Leading a division involved with education and information within VOA was a moment in his career that he found rewarding on new levels. Being live in front of students was equally a passion he continued throughout the last years of his life, as first journalist-in-residence at George Mason, an educational advisor, and author of a new approach to higher-ed textbooks. He always saw the equity in the intelligence of our future generations.

He leaves his mark on his family, friends, listeners, readers, students and the world, and yet leaves a gap.  He shall be forever loved and missed. He will be laid to rest with military honors at Quantico National Cemetery.



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