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Foreign correspondent George McArthur dies

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.

In one case, McArthur recalled recently, his source made the deal in exchange for a box of condoms from the PX.

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, his wife, Eva Kim McArthur, said.

When Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, an avowed communist, hosted American anti-war advocate Tom Hayden at his home in Cambodia, his friend McArthur was the only Western reporter invited to their news conference.

"As I left," McArthur recalled years later, other reporters were standing outside, asking: " 'What did he say? What did he say?' I went past them and headed for the phone."

Born July 15, 1924, in Valdosta, Ga., George A. McArthur III said he was first inspired to become a foreign correspondent at age 9, when he read a book by Richard Harding Davis, a famous globe-trotting reporter in the early 20th century.

McArthur polished an elegant writing style that he said was patterned after that of hero Davis, and lived the life of a foreign correspondent and bon vivant, a heady, Hemingway-esque mix of glamour, drama and danger.

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