William Worthy, defiant global correspondent, dies at age 92
May 20, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
BOSTON--William Worthy, a foreign correspondent who defied travel bans to Cold War adversaries of the United States, has died. He was 92.
Worthy died May 4 at a nursing home in Brewster, Massachusetts, according to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He was a Nieman Foundation fellow from 1956 to 1957.
Worthy, a reporter for the Baltimore Afro-American and correspondent for CBS News, defied travel restrictions by traveling to China in the 1950s.
The government refused to renew his passport, so he visited Cuba in the early 1960s without one. On his return, he was convicted of entering the country illegally. A federal court later declared the law unconstitutional.
Worthy was born in Boston on July 7, 1921. After graduating from the Boston Latin School, Worthy earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 1942.
His Cuba trip inspired folk singer Phil Ochs to celebrate him in “The Ballad of William Worthy.”
“William Worthy isn't worthy to enter our door, He went down to Cuba, he's not American anymore. But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say, 'You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay,'” Ochs sang.
In 1964, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned Worthy's conviction, ruling that the lack of a passport was insufficient to bar a citizen from re-entering the country. He was not granted a new passport until 1968.
Worthy again challenged the U.S. government by reporting from Iran in the early 1980s after the Islamic revolution toppled the shah.
In the course of his reporting, Worthy obtained copies of documents that were stolen from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the hostage crisis and were later published in Iran, The Washington Post reported. U.S. government officials seized one set of copies.
Worthy and his colleagues provided another copy to The Washington Post, which published a series of articles based on the documents and other sources.
“Americans have a right to know what's going on in the world in their name,” he said at the time.
The Nieman Foundation presented Worthy with the Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism in 2008.
In this Feb. 25, 1957 photo, William Worthy, Afro-American correspondent for the Baltimore Weekly, is seen at the U.S. Passport Agency in New York.