Born in the Deep South and caught up in the romance of journalism at an early age, George McArthur was not one to let social taboos or politics interfere with a good story.
As a campus reporter for the local newspaper, covering civil rights and racial tensions at the University of Georgia, he was called a "communist" by the state's segregationist governor, Herman Talmadge. McArthur replied, with typical sarcasm, that he felt honored.
Later, while reporting for The Associated Press from Seoul during the Korean War, and from the Arab world and Indochina, McArthur cultivated Soviet and other communist-state reporters as friends, and the trust paid off with exclusive bits of inside information from the ongoing peace talks at Panmunjom.
For nearly three decades, McArthur was the quintessential foreign correspondent as he reported from the boulevards of Paris to the sands of the Middle East and jungles of Vietnam, for the AP and later the Los Angeles Times. He died Friday night at age 88 in a hospice in Fairfax County, Va., of complications from a stroke 17 days earlier, said his wife, Eva Kim McArthur.
In 1951, McArthur was one of several youthful AP staffers who volunteered to replace the aging ex-World War II retreads first dispatched to Seoul after communist North Korea's invasion of South Korea in July, 1950.
McArthur polished an elegant writing style in those years that he said was patterned after that of his boyhood hero Davis, and lived the life of a foreign correspondent and bon vivant, a heady, Hemingway-esque mix of glamour, drama and danger.
In 1964, McArthur began making reporting trips from Manila to Vietnam and a year later joined the AP Saigon staff full-time. He was named bureau chief in 1968, and in late 1969 he left the AP to join the Los Angeles Times, continuing to cover the Vietnam War.
He also met, and later married, Eva Kim, a diplomatic secretary to U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and his successor, Graham Martin.
When Saigon fell to invading North Vietnamese troops on April 30, 1975, Martin and key aides were on one of the last Marine helicopters to leave the U.S. embassy roof. Martin carried the embassy's folded flag; McArthur, accompanying his wife Eva, carried the ambassador's tiny terrier, Nit Noy, on his lap, having saved it from being left behind.