Leon Daniel Obit

LEON DANIEL OBIT (The Associated Press)

NEW YORK (AP) - Leon Daniel, who spent nearly four decades reporting on wars, the U.S. civil rights movement and other domestic and foreign news for United Press International and retired in 1993 as its foreign editor, has died at age 74.

Daniel died late Sunday in Illinois from a blood clot in his lung while recovering from angioplasty, according to Judith Paterson, a retired journalism professor and his companion for the past 10 years.

Since suffering a stroke two years ago, Daniel had lived in an assisted living facility near the home of his daughter, the Rev. Lillian Daniel Weeks, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn.

"Among wire service reporters, Leon Daniel was the gold standard," said Joseph Galloway, a military writer and former UPI staffer who covered the Vietnam War with Daniel in the 1960s.

"He was a fierce competitor but always a gentleman at the end of the day."

That was a view shared by his rivals working for The Associated Press, especially in Vietnam, one of the last major running stories where the two news services went head to head every day.

"Leon was one of the most knowledgeable and boldest reporters in Vietnam, whose lucid, insightful stories at the height of the war helped UPI score plenty of page one headlines," said Peter Arnett, who covered Vietnam for AP for a dozen years. "He also was among the most amiable of men."

Daniel was one of a few foreign correspondents who remained in Saigon as South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975, and wrote the UPI flash that said "Saigon government surrenders."

When the conquerers evicted all western reporters a few weeks later, Daniel was asked why he had stayed behind. His reply: "I had to. The AP correspondent was there."

After Marine Corps combat duty during the Korean War, Daniel began his 36-year UPI career as a reporter in Knoxville, Tenn., in the 1950s and later worked in Atlanta, Tokyo, Bangkok, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Manila, Brussels, London and Washington, D.C., where he occupied the foreign editor's chair.

Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery, with a memorial service to be held in Washington, D.C. on April 1.