Charles W. Corddry, 76, Sun defense reporter

April 01, 1996|By FRED RASMUSSEN | FRED RASMUSSEN,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Robert Timberg contributed to this article.

Charles W. Corddry, who had a distinguished 22-year career as military affairs correspondent for The Sun and as a regular panelist on public television's "Washington Week in Review," died yesterday of cancer at his home in Kensington. He was 76.

Mr. Corddry was known for his consistent excellence in reporting on defense and foreign policy issues. He joined the Washington bureau of The Sun in 1967 after working 25 years with United Press International, where he began his career in 1941.

He retired from The Sun in 1989 but continued to work for the newspaper as a free-lance consultant on defense matters.

During Mr. Corddry's long tenure in Washington, he covered every secretary of defense from James V. Forrestal during the Truman administration to Richard B. Cheney, who served under President Bush.

"He was one of the most careful reporters I've ever seen and he was so meticulous in his writing. His caution paid off, when he wrote something you could depend on it," said Paul A. Banker, retired managing editor of The Sun.

Said Robert B. Sims, a former assistant secretary of defense, who wrote a book entitled "The Pentagon Reporters": "All of my memories of Charles are positive. He is absolutely as erudite a reporter on the military as ever walked the halls of the Pentagon,"

And Ernest B. Furgurson, former chief of The Sun's Washington bureau, said, "Charlie's value was that you could be confident that if there was anything serious happening in the field of national security, he was not only aware of it, he was plugged into it."

Despite having no military service, Mr. Corddry had a grasp and understanding of military matters that was sharpened and honed by his coverage of three wars involving the United States.

Mr. Corddry, for example, was the first correspondent to report the crossing of Korea's 38th parallel by U.S troops in fall 1950.

He covered NATO and reported from Berlin before the construction of the infamous wall in 1961, returning in 1989 to see it destroyed.

"There is no better questioner among defense, or, indeed, other correspondents here," Richard Halloran, the esteemed former defense correspondent of the New York Times, wrote in 1988 when he nominated Mr. Corddry for the Gerald R. Ford Foundation Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. Mr. Corddry received the award that year.

"I have watched Mr. Corddry listen attentively until the session was about two-thirds over. Then one hears a quiet, almost laconic, voice and a question, framed in a civil matter, that goes straight to the heart of the matter and often skewers the official who called the meeting," Mr. Halloran wrote.

It was, however, his weekly appearance as a panelist on "Washington Week in Review," which began in 1967, that brought him wide fame and celebrity.

Max M. Kampelman, the program's first moderator and later a senior arms control negotiator for the Reagan administration, said he wanted a show that explained why decisions were being made.

"Charlie was great. Charlie really understood as few people did," he said.

Because of his weekly appearances on the show, "Charlie was the best known Baltimore Sun reporter in the country. He would get out of an airplane in Montana or Idaho and people would rush up and ask for his autograph," said Peter J. Kumpa, The Sun's Washington Bureau chief from 1972-75.

He was so admired that an enthusiastic viewer in Canada named her child Corddry and last year, Mr. Corddry and his wife, Marion, visited his namesake in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Corddry, who was born and raised in Snow Hill, was the son of a lumber and building materials company executive. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1941 from American University in Washington and began his journalism career working summers for UPI.

Services for Mr. Corddry will be held at 3 p.m. April 14 at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Kensington, where he was a longtime member.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Marion M. Mattes; two sons, Philip M. Corddry of Bethesda and Charles W. Corddry III of Houston; a daughter, Karen Corddry Bricken of Gaithersburg; a sister, Rosemary Corddry Manning of Salisbury; and six grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/01/96

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