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WASHINGTON--Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, one of the nation's most influential journalists, who relished his "Prince of Darkness" public persona, died at home here early Tuesday morning after a battle with brain cancer.
"He was someone who loved being a journalist, love journalism and loved his country and loved his family, Novak's wife, Geraldine, told the Sun-Times on Tuesday.
"Bob was always the pro, no matter what he had going on he was always at the ready to help out on stories, and he broke more than his share. Even as he became a national figure he was always proud to be part of the Sun-Times and we were proud of him," said Don Hayner, Editor in Chief of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Novak was remembered by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as "a good friend and a fine reporter. We spent many hours talking about the ins and out of Washington and Chicago politics together, and I will miss his friendship greatly."
Former Commerce Secretary William Daley and his brother, Mayor Richard Daley, were also friends of Novak. William Daley told the Sun-Times, "Bob was a proud Illinoisan proud of his Joliet upbringing and the university which he graduated.
"He was a tough reporter who was a conservative who believed in reporting and analyzing the politicians and what they said. He loved the Sun-Times with lots of friends there. Even though he had a rough reputation he cared deeply about people who were not the powerful. His sources were a multitude of people from every political persuasion I was proud to be one of them."
Mayor Daley said, "On behalf of the residents of Chicago, I extend my sympathies to the family and friends of Robert Novak.
"With the Chicago Sun-Times as his home base for many years, Bob Novak kept Americans informed about the impact of the federal government on their lives.
"He was an outstanding reporter and a communicator who distinguished himself in both print and electronic media. He will be greatly missed by all who value the role that a free press plays in our society."
Novak's remarkable and long-running career made him a powerful presence in newspaper columns, newsletters, books and on television. His was a conservative voice--but he was hardly a foot soldier of the Republican party. He was a major critic of President Bush's invasion of Iraq.
On May 15, 1963, Novak teamed up with the late Rowland Evans Jr. to create the "Inside Report" political column, which became the must-read syndicated column. Evans tapped Novak, then a 31-year old correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to help with the workload of a six-day-a-week column.
Evans and Novak were the odd couple: Evans a Philadelphia blue blood and Yale graduate; Novak from Joliet, Ill. who attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus.
Novak handled the column solo after Evans retired in 1993. The Chicago Sun-Times has been Novak's home paper since 1966.
One of the most controversial chapters in Novak's career was triggered by a 2003 Chicago Sun-Times column he did disclosing the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.
At the time the outing of Plame was seen as an attempt to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who wrote an op-ed disputing the Bush White House claim that Iraq had bought "uranium yellowcake" from Niger.
The leaking of Plame's name led to an investigation headed by Chicago based federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, resulting in the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, accused of lying to a federal grand jury.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Oh) said "Bob made remarkable contributions in the field of journalism and to the American political landscape. He gave us a lifetime of dedication to the work he loved, and it is hard to imagine Washington without him."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said Novak was a Washington institution who could turn an idea into the most discussed story around kitchen tables, Congressional offices, the White House, and everywhere in between."
Robert David Sanders Novak, 78, was born and raised in Joliet and his first newspaper jobs were with the Joliet Herald-News and, while a student at the University of Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana Courier. Novak maintained a lifelong tie to the University of Illinois with the school creating the Robert D. Novak chair of Western Civilization and Culture.
Mrs. Novak said that her husband passed away at 4:30 a.m., returning home after being hospitalized between July 10 and July 24. Novak's malignant brain tumor was discovered July 27, 2008. Born Jewish, Novak became a Catholic in 1998 and attributed being able to handle the shock of learning he had a brain tumor in 2008 to his Catholic faith. In one of his last columns--Sept. 7, 2008--Novak wrote about how he learned he had a brain tumor.
"The first sign that I was in trouble came on Wednesday, July 23, when my 2004 black Corvette struck a pedestrian on 18th Street in downtown Washington while I was on my way to the office." Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) is also fighting a brain tumor and Novak disclosed in the column that he found his brain surgeon through the help of Kennedy's wife, Vicki.
In 2008 Novak chronicled his amazing career, in his memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington. He was known as a conservative pundit who pioneered political talk television on CNN with Capital Gang, Crossfire and Inside Politics.
Novak was a fixture on political shows--on NBC's "Meet the Press" 248 times. But Novak had a long history with CNN. Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide said, "We are saddened by the passing of Robert Novak. He was a journalist of the old school, hard-working, practical and passionate about our profession. From its earliest days and for some 25 years, Bob shared generously with CNN and with CNN viewers his authority, credibility, humor and towering presence. We're grateful to have worked alongside him and send our respect and sympathy to his family."
Never taking himself too seriously, Novak was a member and former president of The Gridiron Club, and looked forward each year to dressing up in a costume lampooning politicians--or even himself. He was last onstage at the Gridiron show as Darth Vader.
He was also a passionate basketball fan, rooting for the University of Maryland Terps.
Besides Mrs. Novak, survivors include son Alex, 41, a marketing executive for Eagle Publishing and daughter Zelda, 44, who is married to the journalist Christopher Caldwell. Novak is the grandfather Jane, Philip, Eliza, and George Caldwell, and Max, Sam, Gloria, and Joseph Novak.
Visitation will take place at St. Patrick's in the City Catholic Church, 619 Tenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 20 from 4:00-7:00 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Patrick's in the City, 619 Tenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 21 at 10:00 a.m. Interment private. If desired, memorial contributions may be made to the Youth Leadership Foundation, 4101 Yuma Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20016 or the Children's Charities Foundation, 3000 K Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, DC 20007-5109