LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Hal McClure, who covered two Arab-Israeli wars after turning a passion for travel and the written word into a career as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press, has died in California. He was 92.
McClure died Sunday at a Laguna Hills hospital following surgery to relieve a blood clot on his brain from a recent fall, according to his sister, Virginia McClure.
McClure spent 21 years overseas for the AP beginning in the mid-1950s.
He said he knew he wanted to be a reporter after joining a journalism club at San Fernando High School in Los Angeles. But his career was put on hold by a stint in the Air Force, where he served as a pilot and flight instructor.
“When he got out of the service, his goal was to get a newspaper job and get married,” said Stan Walsh, a longtime friend.
McClure did both, in short order. He landed a job as a general assignment reporter at a small newspaper in Central California and wed his sweetheart, Dorothy. It was a marriage that lasted nearly five decades, until her death several years ago.
After a few itinerant years at various papers across California, the AP in Los Angeles offered McClure a job covering Hollywood. He accepted, with the hope of eventually getting a foreign posting.
During his stint on the entertainment beat, he was one of the first reporters on the scene of a car crash that took an eye from Sammy Davis Jr.
His first foreign assignment took him to Singapore, and afterward he was appointed correspondent in Malaysia. One of the big stories he covered at the time was the 1961 disappearance — still unresolved — of Michael Rockefeller, son of New York governor and presidential hopeful Nelson Rockefeller.
McClure covered the search in New Guinea, where the 23-year-old was studying tribal cultures.
McClure was transferred to Turkey in 1962, a posting that also put him in charge of Israel and Cyprus. He covered the 1964 visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land — the first by any pontiff — and the violence in ethnically divided Cyprus.
Nearing the end of his Turkey assignment, McClure presciently advised New York headquarters to place his successor in Tel Aviv. Instead, he was moved there, according to his autobiography.
Weeks later, the 1967 war broke out. Six years after that, he was directing coverage of another Arab-Israeli war.
McClure had hired Marcus Eliason as the new bureau’s messenger. He was one of several beginners who trained under the tutelage of McClure.
“Hal was a firm but kind employer and a good friend,” said Eliason, now an international editor with AP in New York. “He was steeped in the fundamentals of journalism — accuracy, fairness, speed, directness of prose, alertness to both sides of every story. He sought to instil these qualities in all the journalists who started out in his bureau, and having himself gotten into the profession on the bottom rung, he was generous in giving other neophytes opportunities to cover big stories.”
After his final AP assignment, as chief of bureau in Newark, N.J., McClure retired from the AP and became a film documentarian, travelling around the world with his wife to produce films about their treks.
When they weren’t travelling, the couple gave lectures and presented their short films to audiences around the U.S. He continued to work into his 90s, publishing the autobiography, “Adventuring,” last year.
Much of his work was featured in Travel Adventure Documentary magazine, where he was an editor.
McClure is survived by his sister.
Funeral plans were pending.