Richard J. Whalen, Biographer of Joseph P. Kennedy, Dies at 87

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Richard J. Whalen, a writer who gained notoriety for his best-selling biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, and later joined Richard M. Nixon’s presidential campaign as a speechwriter, died on July 18 at the age of 87. He passed away from pneumonia at a nursing home in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Whalen’s career took off when Fortune magazine published his 13,000-word profile of Joseph Kennedy in 1963, which detailed how Kennedy amassed his wealth and became a prominent figure in politics. The article also explored Kennedy’s desire for political success for his three sons. Whalen received significant interest from publishers who wanted him to turn the article into a book. New American Library offered him a $100,000 advance to write “The Founding Father: The Story of Joseph P. Kennedy” (1964), which became a best-seller. Whalen’s departure from Fortune in 1965 led him to work as a writer in residence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His article on nuclear defense attracted the attention of Richard Nixon, who invited Whalen to be an adviser and speechwriter for his presidential campaign. However, Whalen, a conservative, left the campaign shortly after Nixon’s nomination due to clashes with campaign manager John Mitchell and other aides. In his book “Catch the Falling Flag: A Republican’s Challenge to His Party,” Whalen outlined his disappointments with Nixon, including the false promise to end the Vietnam War. Born on September 23, 1935, Whalen began his career as a reporter for The Richmond News Leader before joining Time magazine as a national affairs correspondent and later The Wall Street Journal as an editorial writer. Throughout his career, Whalen worked as a consultant and writer for various politicians, including William P. Rogers and Ronald Reagan. He also founded World Wide Information Resources, which provided political, economic, and foreign policy analyses to subscribers. Whalen’s book on Nixon was published in 1972 and criticized the president for not delivering on his conservative promises. He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, four grandchildren, and a brother.

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