WASHINGTON--Former Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) died early Saturday at the age of 91 at a hospice here. Percy's daughter, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, is the president and CEO of WETA, the Washington area public broadcasting station.
I covered part of Percy's 1978 campaign, moving up to extensively report on his 1984 re-election battle with Paul Simon, who defeated him. The 1984 campaign, by the way, marked the political debut of David Axelrod, who worked for Simon; he is now President Obama's chief strategist.
it's hard to imagine now, what with constricted campaign coverage budgets, but in 1984 it was routine for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reporters to travel almost full time with U.S. Senate candidates, especially as election day drew nearer. One time in 1984 I found myself on a small jet with Percy, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Bruce Dold, my Tribune rival, for an Illinois fly-around.
This was an era before cell phones, so each time we touched down at an airport, Percy would go off to make phone calls.
At one stop, Percy climbed aboard looking perturbed. Naturally, I was curious, as was my Tribune counterpart.
"What's up senator," we asked.
Percy gravely replied, "They are bombing Khartoum"
We asked, "who is bombing Khartoum?"
"We don't know," Percy said.
In that pre-Twitter, pre-blog, pre-cell phone, pre-Internet era, there was nothing print reporters could do with that scoop about the capital of Sudan as the plane took off.
Read the Chicago Sun-Times obit HERE.