David Shears, a correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph whose wry touch graced dispatches about American political campaigning and who once described the United States as "the most fascinating, variegated, vulgar, sophisticated, ugly, beautiful, exciting country in the world," died March 20 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was 86.
He had complications from pneumonia, said his son, Nicholas Shears.
Shears reported from Washington for the Daily Telegraph from 1961 to 1965 and, after a long assignment as Bonn bureau chief in Germany, from 1981 until his retirement in 1986.
He covered the civil rights movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis and President John F. Kennedy's assassination, and he periodically freelanced for American publications.
In a 1961 New York Times Magazine story titled "Is Baby Kissing Really Necessary?" Shears described the "bizarre affair" that is the American campaign process, complete with its "hand-pumping, blintz-eating, baby-kissing, [and] beauty-contest-judging.
"Is all this clowning really necessary?" he wrote.
Shears was born May 20, 1926, in London and raised in Cheltenham. He served in the British Navy during World War II and was a 1949 politics, philosophy and economics graduate of the University of Oxford in England.
He briefly worked as a reporter at the Bristol Evening Post before joining Reuters as a foreign correspondent in 1951.
Five years later, he was assigned to the news agency's Washington bureau, where he worked until 1961, when he joined the Daily Telegraph.
After leaving Washington in 1965, Shears served as the Daily Telegraph's bureau chief in Bonn. He chronicled many leading events of the Cold War and wrote a book, "The Ugly Frontier" (1970), about life on both sides of the Berlin Wall and the longer military and economic barrier dividing East and West Germany. He also reported on the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September at the Munich Olympic Games.
Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Ursula Hahn Shears of Washington; a son, Nicholas Shears of Arlington, Va.; and two grandsons.