John Painter Jr., a longtime Oregonian reporter and a 1977 Nieman Fellow, died on November 18 from complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 78.
Painter spent nearly four decades at The Oregonian, where he covered everything from Bruce Springsteen’s first wedding to the oil and gas industry in Alaska. He interviewed President Gerald Ford on Air Force One in 1976.
Born in Portland, Painter attended the University of Oregon, where he studied journalism. He enlisted in the military in 1960 and, stationed in Germany, served three years in Army intelligence.
Painter began his journalism career while still in college; he spent his summer vacations as a copy boy at The Oregonian. He wrote for the University of Oregon’s school paper as well as for Stars and Stripes and the Richmond Times Dispatch—where, among other stories, he covered President John F. Kennedy’s funeral. He also raced cars professionally until March of 1964, when he hit a wall at 70 mph while racing on a track in Falls Church, Virginia. The accident left him with a paralyzed left arm and diaphragm.
After the accident, he joined The Oregonian and worked there until his retirement in 2002. Over the course of his career, he reportedly wrote 36,000 stories for the paper. Along with his Nieman Fellowship, Painter received a Medill Fellowship at Northwestern University in 1967.
Painter is survived by his wife, Susan Painter.