Tony Blankley, Former Editorial Page Editor of Times, Dies at 63; Remembered for Conservative Values

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Byline: David Eldridge, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Tony Blankley, a noted conservative commentator, Ronald Reagan speechwriter and former editorial page editor of The Washington Times, died late Saturday, leaving a legacy of significant analysis that bridged politics and culture with finesse, optimism and a sense of history.

He was 63 and had been battling stomach cancer.

At the time of his death, Mr. Blankley was an executive vice president of the Edelman public relations firm in Washington, a visiting senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation think tank, a syndicated newspaper columnist and an on-air political commentator for CNN, NBC and NPR.

He was also a regular weekly guest on The McLaughlin Group.

From 1990 to 1997, he served as press secretary and general adviser to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ultimately earning a reputation among political friends and foes as one of Washington's most genial, quick-witted and effective operatives.

Mr. Gingrich, campaigning in New Hampshire on Sunday for the Republican presidential nomination, called his former press secretary a very dear friend and a key part of the team behind the 1994 Contract With America.

His father had been the accountant for Winston Churchill. Tony grewup with this deep passionate commitment, that I think he got from his dad, for freedom, Mr. Gingrich said. Tony was a very special person. He was more than a great professional. He was a great human being. He was a caring and loving person. He was a tremendous amount of fun, remarkably erudite and educated.

Born in London, Mr. Blankley became a naturalized American citizen after his parents moved to California after World War II. As a child, he acted in such television shows as Lassie, "Highway Patro "and"Make Room for Daddy," and appeared in movies with such stars as Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger.

He met Ronald Reagan at a 1950s-era USO performance and later volunteered to work on all of Reagan's campaigns for governor and president.

A Loyola Marymount University law school graduate, Mr. Blankley later served six years in the Reagan administration in a variety of positions, including speechwriter and senior policy analyst. He also spent 10 years as a prosecutor with the California attorney general's office.

Mr. Blankley joined the staff of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s George magazine as a contributing editor before taking over The Times' editorial section in 2002.

Douglas D.M. Joo, chairman of The Washington Times, cited the conservative icon's contributions to the newspaper:

Tony Blankley was an important voice in America's conservative landscape. He understood deeply conservative values and their importance to America. His insight on the global geopolitical environment was balanced and principled. We will miss the benefit of his clarity. I worked closely with him. .. He was a true gentleman, and a family man I deeply appreciated his respect for our founder's vision and his support for the editorial mission of this newspaper.

Wesley Pruden, editor-in-chief of The Washington Times until he retired three years ago, said his former colleague was an editor's dream.

He had an instinctive understanding of politics and the experience, from the Reagan White House and as press secretary and senior adviser to Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House, to prove it, Mr. Pruden said. "Tony was an immigrant - he arrived as a child from England just after World War II - and he understood America with a deep and abiding love and gratitude for its history, its culture and its exceptional and unique place in the world. …