Leonard Reed, a broadcast journalist with the Voice of America in the 1950s and 1960s and later a freelance writer whose work appeared in Harper's magazine, Washington Monthly and the Washington Post, died of colon cancer Friday at his home in Chevy Chase. The Montgomery County resident was 90.
Born in Montgomery, Ala., in 1918, Mr. Reed graduated from New York University in 1939. He served on a Navy minesweeper in the North Atlantic during World War II, and later as a commanding officer of a submarine chaser in the Pacific.
After the war, he joined the U.S. Information Agency as an editor and commentary writer, later becoming chief of the Voice of America's European bureau, which was based in Munich, in then-West Germany. His was the voice on the first VOA broadcasts into Warsaw and Moscow.
Upon his return to the United States in 1965, Mr. Reed was placed in charge of English-language broadcasting for the VOA. Later, a dispute over the agency's reporting during the Vietnam War era led to Mr. Reed's removal by the then-head of the U.S. Information Agency. Mr. Reed was dismissed over the objections of the VOA's director at the time, John Charles Daly, a veteran journalist and television and radio personality, who resigned in protest.
John Jacobs, a friend of more than 60 years who also worked with Mr. Reed, said the issue was whether the State Department would dictate the VOA's editorial policies. "They decided we should parrot the administration line, but we were all newsmen, and there was always a big resistance to that," Mr. Jacobs said. "We wanted to do an honorable job, which is by far the best propaganda."
Speaking of his friend, Mr. Jacobs said, "Throughout his career, he was not averse to confrontation if he had to deal with it, and he always came out of it with honor. He was a man of great wit and political insight."
Mr. Reed returned to the U.S. Information Agency two years after his departure when a new director was appointed. He then spent four years with the agency as editor-in-chief of Amerika Illustrated, a glossy magazine the U.S. distributed in the Soviet Union. In his later years he became a freelance writer, and was a contributing editor at Washington Monthly.
He was an avid tennis player, continuing to play until he was well into his 80s. His first marriage ended with the death of his wife, Judith K. Reed.
A remembrance ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday in Somerset Town Hall.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, the former Joyce Lasky Shub; a son, Jonathan Reed of Las Vegas; a daughter, Susan Silver of Timonium; a stepson, Adam Shub of Mexico City; stepdaughter, Rachel Shub of Geneva, Switzerland; and six grandchildren.