The New York Times website is reporting that William Safire, longtime columnist for the newspaper, one of Richard Nixon’s two leading speechwriters (with Ray Price) during the President’s first term, and, in 1959, an eyewitness to the Kitchen Debate in Moscow, has died at the age of 79.

Update 9.28.2009, 10:22 am (pst)

Courtesy of Frank Gannon, NPR’s David Folkenfilk has a comprehensive obituary on the late columnist and Nixon speechwriter:


Update: 9.27.2009, 11:34 pm (pst)

Editor’s Note: More coverage on the passing of William Safire:

Bill Safire, The most appreciative appreciation., By Leslie Gelb, Forbes
Bill Safire, the longtime and prize-winning op-ed columnist for the New York Times, was the best in the opinion business for almost 30 years. He was also the best friend and the worst enemy to friends and foes. And I can’t think of a better accolade. There was little he would deny to a friend, and there was little respite he would give to a foe.

William Safire: Careful with words, generous with colleagues, By Carl Lavin, Forbes
The same hour William Safire died of cancer in a Maryland hospice, Jews in Israel–a nation always close to his heart and writings–were bowing their heads for Yom Kippur services.

William Safire, A competitor who had our back when we needed him, Wall Street Journal
In economic and foreign policy, as in fashion and music, the 1970s were largely a miserable decade. But out of that woeful time arose a generation of conservative giants in journalism and public life, among them the New York Times columnist William Safire, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at age 79.

William Safire, 1929-2009 By John Podhoretz, Commentary
William Safire, who died today, was a breakthrough figure—the first professional Republican ideologue of his time to become a mainstream fixture in journalism. Indeed, when he was hired by the New York Times to write a column after his tenure as a speechwriter and intimate of the president in the Nixon White House, the shock and horror with which his new position was viewed in the Times newsroom and in the journalistic corridors of Washington were unprecedented in their ferocity. Safire himself said that people would barely look him in the eye in his place of employ for years.

Remembering Bill Safire By Morton Janklow, The Daily Beast
Morton Janklow, literary agent and lifelong friend of the contrarian columnist, on how Safire launched his career and influenced political thought over two generations.

Read Safire’s last column at the New York Times: ‘Never Retire.’

As recently as July 2009 –the 50th anniversary of the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “Kitchen Debate” — Safire discussed his role in the history making event: