James Monroe Cannon III, former reporter and foreign correspondent for The Sun who later became a top Newsweek correspondent and an aide to New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller and President Gerald R. Ford, died Sept. 15 from complications of a stroke at Capital Hospice in Arlington, Va.
Mr. Cannon, who was 93, lived in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood.
James Myers Cannon was born in Sylacauga, Ala., and was raised in Athens, Ala. When he was in college at the University of Alabama, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1939, he changed his middle name to his father's.
He served in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and held assignments in Africa, Italy, the Middle East, India, China and Southeast Asia. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of captain.
Mr. Cannon broke into journalism when he took a job as a reporter for the Potsdam, N.Y., Herald-Recorder. He then worked for the Gloversville, N.Y., Leader-Republican before joining The Sun in 1949.
"We heard that 'Buck' Dorsey [Charles H. 'Buck' Dorsey Jr., who was The Sun's managing editor] had hired some kid from Gloversville, N.Y., for the unheard salary of $70 a week, which quickly spread through the newsroom," recalled longtime friend and colleague Russell Baker, who was on The Sun's staff in those years.
"So even before Jim got here, passions were high and we in the newsroom were filled with envy," said Mr. Baker, who later became a New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
"Jim was the fill-in guy at City Hall when the regular reporter was drunk," Mr. Baker said.
Mr. Cannon saw opportunity when the Korean War broke out.
"Jim decided he wanted to be a war correspondent and went around to see Bill 'Perky' Perkinson," recalled Mr. Baker.
Mr. Perkinson was assistant to the gruff and no-nonsense Neil H. Swanson, executive editor of the Sunpapers at that time.
"We were in the old Sun building at Baltimore and Charles streets," Mr. Cannon told a reporter from The Sun in an interview last year. "I contrived to get sent overseas. I think it was the most transparent thing I've ever done."
He recalled the exact moment when he launched his own invasion: It was at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 26, 1950 — the day after Communist North Korean forces swept into the Republic of South Korea.
"I walked into Perkinson's office, which was right next to Swanson's. The Sun was so cheap that the partitions didn't go all the way up to the ceiling," he said. "So, gambling that Swanson might be on the other side listening, I spoke in a loud voice and told Perkinson I wanted to go to Korea. He said he'd mention it to Swanson."
A little while later, after returning to the city room, Mr. Cannon was summoned to the managing editor's office, where the ambitious 32-year-old reporter heard the words he wanted to hear: "We'll send you."
In addition to his typewriter, Mr. Cannon traveled with a well-stocked bar, which he used to put sources at ease — or to loosen their tongues.
"Whiskey is always the best medium of exchange and it was especially so in Korea," said Mr. Cannon in the interview last year. "A couple bottles of whiskey got a Jeep for The Sun and one more got it painted." Mr. Cannon said that during his 18 months in Korea, the most harrowing experience was the retreat from the Yalu River, when Chinese forces advanced through the hills and mountains with astonishing swiftness, forcing American troops to retreat.
"I wrote for a 14-hour stretch. . … I think I was one of the first reporters to get the message out about what had happened," Mr. Cannon said.
In 1954, Mr. Cannon left The Sun and briefly worked for Time magazine before taking a job with Newsweek in New York.
During his career with Newsweek, Mr. Cannon served as national affairs editor, Washington correspondent, chief of correspondents, and vice president and assistant to the publisher.
Mr. Cannon joined the staff of Gov. Rockefeller in 1969. After President Ford appointed Mr. Rockefeller vice president in 1974, Mr. Cannon followed him to Washington, where he continued to work as an aide.
Mr. Cannon told The New York Times in 1975 that he left reporting and editing because he wanted to "get out of the grandstand and go down to the playing field."
In 1975, he joined the White House staff when President Ford named him assistant for domestic affairs and executive director of the Domestic Council.
After Mr. Ford's defeat in 1976, Mr. Cannon became chief of staff to Sen. Howard H. Baker from Tennessee. When Mr. Baker became chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Cannon's new job was to analyze White House operations.
Mr. Cannon made headlines when he made published allegations that White House aides had signed President Reagan's initials on documents without authorization.
"I took that to be ominous," Mr. Cannon told The Sun in 1988.
Mr. Cannon later returned to writing, producing "Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History" in 1994.
Shortly before his death, Mr. Cannon completed a second book on the Ford years, "A Time to Keep: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford."
Mr. Cannon was a communicant of Christ Episcopal Church, 3116 O Street, N.W., Georgetown, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 18.
Surviving are his wife of 59 years, the former Cherie Dawson; sons Scott D. Cannon of Arlington, Va., and James M. Cannon IV of Silver Spring; and two grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun