Guild member Harry Dunphy retires; was longest-serving AP staffer

Harry Dunphy walked the picket line with the Guild in New York in 1969

Harry Dunphy retired after more than 50 years with the AP.

Harry Dunphy can now relax after covering the world for the AP.

50 years, six months and 18 days.

That’s how long it was between the time Guild member Harry Dunphy walked into the Denver bureau for the first time and exited the Washington Bureau for the last.

In between, he worked in New York, Beirut, Cairo, Moscow and Paris — more than a half century covering some of the biggest stories of the age.

Dunphy was the longest-serving active AP staffer when he signed off on March 25. (Los Angeles-based photographer and Guild member Nick Ut now bears that distinction.)

Dunphy got his start in the business during college, working nights and weekends on the Kansas City Star Sports desk. The eldest of nine kids in a boisterous Irish Catholic family, he thought briefly about joining the Jesuits, the order that ran his high school and college, but the pull of the newsroom was stronger.

“I liked the immediacy and getting out to see people, describing events and putting them in perspective,” Dunphy told former APer and Guild member Chris Connell, who wrote about his career in Connecting, an AP retiree newsletter.

An editor at the renowned paper also helped plant the seed that led to Dunphy’s long career abroad. “I saved up my money and was about to buy a car when an editor at the Star with whom I had developed a good relationship said, ‘Don’t do that. Go to Europe,’” Dunphy told Connell. So between his junior and senior year, he traveled around Europe with a group from school. “That got me the travel bug and interested in foreign countries and seeing new places and talking to people.”

After graduation in 1962, he joined th

Dunphy was welcomed as COB in Cairo with a belly dance.

Dunphy was welcomed as COB in Cairo with a belly dance.

e Peace Corps and was in the first group sent to Ivory Coast in West Africa, where he taught English. In 1964, he returned to New York, where he had spent a few years as a child, to attend Columbia Journalism School.

 

He took the AP test while still a student, and after a brief stint as a copy editor for the Providence Journal Bulletin, he was offered a post at the AP bureau in Denver. He took the job in Colorado in the fall of 1965, but even then had his sight set on the International Desk and an overseas assignment.

Just a few months later, at the height of the Vietnam War, he was drafted. Sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for basic training, he was soon made editor of the 101st Airborne Division and Third Army newspaper.

After his discharge, he returned to the Denver bureau, where future Managing Editor Burl Osborne helped him get noticed.

Dunphy, left, in the scrum interviewing Sen. Ted Kennedy at U.S. Embassy in Moscow

Dunphy, left, in the scrum interviewing Sen. Ted Kennedy at U.S. Embassy in Moscooticed and get that assignment in New York.

He started on the International Desk on the early in 1968 under the legendary Harris Jackson. “The first night, Harris made me rewrite a brief four times and I thought I had made a terrible mistake,” Dunphy said.

Dunphy told the Guild he remembers taking part in the first – and only – strike against The Associated Press in the company’s history in January 1969. “I was a member of the Guild and took part in the strike, walking in the cold in front of Rockefeller Center. I remember some executives and editors were cordial as they crossed the picket line, but others were frosty.”

A decision to study Arabic at Berlitz on the ground floor of 50 Rockefeller Plaza helped him land his first overseas post, in Beirut in 1970.
There, he met and married Verity, a British woman who worked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

His globe-trotting career also included stints as bureau chief in Cairo, in Moscow during the Cold War and then in Paris for 16 years. He returned to the States to spend two decades in Washington, where he rejoined the Guild.

Dunphy, now 75, plans to retire with his wife to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.