A Service in Thanksgiving
for the life of David Nyhan will be held on Friday, May 6th at
10.30 a.m. at the Memorial Church, Harvard University. A reception
hosted by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and
Public Policy at the Kennedy School and the Nieman Foundation
at Harvard will follow the service.
There will also be a service on Chebeague in
August which might be preferable to Chebeaguers!
Article by David Nyhan - June 15, 2001 when he left the Globe: Thanks all - it was a blast
Article by Thomas Oliphant - Globe Columnist - January 25, 2005: Remembering a gentle giant
Article by Adrian Walker, Globe Columnist - January 24, 2005: A giant passes
Guest Book for boston.com
Article by David Nyhan for the Sunday, January 23, 2005,The Eagle-Tribune: Rice hearing put administration arrogance on display
An Inspirational Message |
David Nyhan reads his inspirational message to students who did not get into college.
From Mike Barnicle, January 25, 2005: Suddenly, we're minus one great newspaper man.
Washington Post, by Joe Holley: David
Nyhan Dies at 64; Columnist for Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
By Brian C. Mooney and Mark Feeney, Globe Staff | January 24, 2005
David Nyhan, whose fiercely liberal columns for The Boston Globe made him a
force in local and national politics even as his generous nature won him a
legion of friends, died early yesterday at his home in Brookline,
apparently of a heart attack. He was 64.
Mr. Nyhan was stricken yesterday after coming in from shoveling snow. He
was rushed by his wife, Olivia, to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,
where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Nyhan retired from the Globe in 2001 after 32 years, but he continued
to write a twice-weekly column for four daily newspapers owned by the
Eagle-Tribune Co. north of Boston. He was scheduled to leave this week for
a monthlong trip to Sri Lanka to accompany and write about a group of about
50 nurses and doctors taking part in tsunami relief efforts.
"In his long career at the Globe, David Nyhan made many important
contributions," said Alfred S. Larkin Jr., spokesman for the Globe.
"Perhaps most visibly, he was in the forefront of a generation of reporters
and columnists who built the Globe's reputation for top-notch political
coverage and commentary. He was a fun-loving, gregarious man who seemed to
know virtually everyone in politics, whether it was at City Hall, the State
House, or in our nation's capital."
"He was a giant in more ways than one," said Martin F. Nolan, a friend and
Globe colleague for many years, referring to Mr. Nyhan's athletic 6-foot,
4-inch frame. "In a business that was so fierce and competitive, I never
met anyone who was more generous," said Nolan, who was chief of the Globe's
Washington bureau when Mr. Nyhan arrived there in 1974 and promptly began
breaking stories about the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment
proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whom Mr. Nyhan admired but needled from time to
time, said in a statement issued by his office: "A Nyhan column over
breakfast was a perfect way to start the day, even if it caused a little
Mr. Nyhan, Kennedy said, "could get to the heart of the matter faster than
anyone I have known . . . with a sharp wit and a unique style."
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino called Mr. Nyhan "big in stature, but gentle
in voice. When he spoke, he spoke the voice of reason."
After retiring from the Globe, Mr. Nyhan straddled the worlds of journalism
and politics. He had helped Menino with speech-writing and with the city's
proposal that brought last year's Democratic National Convention to Boston.
In his columns, Mr. Nyhan's expansive prose generally reflected his
liberal, populist political views. But as a reporter, he was known for an
accurate and seemingly effortless style on deadline.
Stan Grossfeld, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Globe photographer, recalled their
1981 trip to Northern Ireland, covering the hunger strikers of the Irish
Republican Army at Maze Prison.
"In those days, you had to dictate the stories over the phone into a tape
recorder in Boston," recalled Grossfeld, who would read Mr. Nyhan's copy as
he typed the next page. "As fast as I could read the story, Dave would
finish another page, perfectly written."
Mr. Nyhan was inventive in pursuit of the story on the death of Bobby
Sands, one of the hunger strikers. At one point, Mr. Nyhan decoyed guards
outside the prison while Grossfeld surreptitiously snapped photos. At
another point, he paid someone to open a darkroom at 5 a.m. so Grossfeld
could develop his film, Grossfeld recalled.
Though generally pro-Democrat in his outlook and deeply held beliefs, Mr.
Nyhan periodically adopted and promoted the cause of Republican candidates,
particularly for president.
He especially admired Senator John McCain of Arizona. Another GOP favorite
was Lamar Alexander, the former governor of Tennessee who is now a senator.
As often happened with Mr. Nyhan's candidates, they ultimately lost.
In each case, though, he informed them that his support had limits. "I'm
with you until the Democratic Convention," he told them.
There was rarely middle ground in Mr. Nyhan's columns. "If you're going to
help someone, really help them," was one of his credos.
Mr. Nyhan's forthrightness was not restricted to his column. A disciple of
former Globe editor Thomas Winship, Mr. Nyhan showed willingness at a 1986
management think tank to give voice to widespread editorial dissatisfaction
with Winship's successor, Michael C. Janeway. His remarks were seen by many
to have precipitated Janeway's resignation.
Such candor could make Mr. Nyhan suspect in senior circles both inside and
outside the paper -- Cardinal Bernard F. Law accused him of slander in
1989. It was a mark of his populist credentials.
Mr. Nyhan always had more time for the paper's custodians and phone
operators than for editors. His outsider sympathies more than matched
insider credentials, such as those that earned him a spot as a pallbearer
at the 1994 funeral of former US House speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr.
Mr. Nyhan's freewheeling style created a small uproar in 1993 when a
teasing remark directed at a male colleague employed a crude term for
excessive deference to women. It was overheard by a female colleague and
led to the Globe's then-editor Matthew V. Storin fining Mr. Nyhan for the
remark. The punishment was later waived.
As much as he loved to talk about politics, Mr. Nyhan enjoyed talking more
about his three children. At their father's 60th birthday party, they
gathered around the piano at his Brookline home and sang their own version
of Cole Porter's "You're the Top."
And while many will remember him for his life on the public stage, Mr.
Nyhan's friends recall his extraordinary generosity. A loan, advice, the
name of a top-notch medical specialist? He always had time. "He had a great
appetite for life, and with his big heart, he was always quick with a five,
or these days, a 50-dollar bill," said one of his three siblings,
Christopher D. of South Portland, Maine.
Mr. Nyhan and his wife spent as much time as possible at their second home
on Chebeague Island in Casco Bay, just north of Portland. Mr. Nyhan's idea
of a great afternoon was talking to the lobstermen at the local boat yard,
where he had a 25-foot sailboat and a speedy Grady White pleasure craft.
He was born Charles David Nyhan Jr. in Boston and grew up in Brookline's
Whiskey Point section. His father was a construction inspector for the
Metropolitan District Commission. His mother, Margaret (McCormick), was a
Mr. Nyhan graduated from Brookline High School in 1958. He majored in
English at Harvard College and played on the varsity lacrosse and football
teams. In the 1961 Harvard-Yale game, Mr. Nyhan scored a touchdown with a
fumble recovery in the Yale end zone.
He wrote about the triumph in a 1985 Globe column, but in his self-effacing
way, most of the column was about the ignominy of his own errant snap to
the punter earlier in the season, which cost Harvard the game against Lehigh.
Before joining the Globe as State House bureau chief in 1969, Mr. Nyhan
served in the Air Force, then worked as a reporter for The Salem Evening
News and in the Springfield and Boston bureaus of the Associated Press.
Mr. Nyhan rose quickly at the Globe. He covered the 1972 presidential
campaign, served briefly as labor editor, and joined the paper's Washington
bureau in 1974. He became the bureau's news editor in 1975. He later served
as White House correspondent, assistant managing editor for local news, and
national correspondent. He began writing his op-ed column in 1985 and was
named a Globe associate editor in 1987.
The author of a 1988 biography of Michael Dukakis, "The Duke," Mr. Nyhan
was a Reuters Foundation fellow at Oxford University in 1995 and a fellow
in 2001 at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and
In his last column as a member of the Globe staff, Mr. Nyhan wrote in June
2001: "The thing I'll miss most is the chance to shine a little flashlight
on a dark corner, where a wrong was done to a powerless peon, where a
scarred politician maybe deserved a better fate, where the process went
awry, or the mob needed to be calmed down and herded in another direction."
In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Nyhan leaves two daughters,
Veronica Jones of Washington and Kate of Brookline; a son, Nicholas of New
York City; a sister, Margaret R. Lockwood of Brookline; another brother, F.
John of Chappaqua, N.Y.; and two grandchildren.
David and Olivia in 2000