Former Courant editor Richard Mooney dies at 91
HARTFORD – Richard E. Mooney, a former New York Times columnist who served as executive editor of The Hartford Courant for five years, died Wednesday night at the age of 91.
Mooney shepherded The Courant during the landmark years of 1976 to 1981, coinciding with the shuttering of The Hartford Times and The Courant’s $105.6 million sale to the Times Mirror company, ending its independence as a locally-owned paper.
He spent more than 40 years as a journalist, his time at The Courant book-ended by long careers at The New York Times as a reporter, foreign correspondent,
assistant editor and editorial board member.
“His passion was the New York Times, and The Hartford Courant when he was editor there,” his son, Steve Mooney, said. “His passion was the news and his passion was getting it right. He took language seriously, he took facts seriously, he took journalistic standards seriously.”
Until he suffered complications from a long battle with cancer, hewasliving independently in New York City. Even recently, Mooney was taking regular trains to visit his alma mater, Yale University, where he compiled several exhibits on the Yale Daily News, Revolutionary War figure Nathan Hale and the naming of Yale's 12 original colleges.
Mooney was born in Plainfield, N.J., to Wandell M. Mooney, a banker, and Alice Joy Mooney. He briefly served in the U.S. Navy at age 18, but as World War II came to a close, he went on to Yale, where he became managing editor of the Yale Daily News.
He graduated in 1947, and spent a year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, going on to work for the United Press and, in 1956, The New York Times.
Over 19 years, he worked as an economics reporter in Washington, D.C., and New York and a foreign correspondent in Paris, with his wife, Elizabeth Coleman Mooney, and sons Jim, Steve and John in tow. He returned to the city as deputy foreign editor and deputy financial editor, until a serendipitous phone call from a cousin — and head hunter — led him to Hartford.
The cousin had been commissioned to find the next editor for The Courant and wanted to knowif Mooneyhad any suggestions, according to former Courant editor and historian Joseph Nunes. Mooneygavehimafewnames, and then threw in his one. He got the top job.
“It was a personal accomplishment for him to be leading a paper, and especially one with that kind of history to it,” said his son, John Mooney, founder of an online policy publication NJ Spotlight. “I think he wore that really proudly and seriously. There was no chance it would falter under his watch.”
His oldest son, Jim Mooney, remembers his parents searching for a home in the West End, near the town line, and his father insisting they have a Hartford address.
“He said, ‘I have to live in Hartford, we can't live on that side of the street because it's West Hartford,” Jim said.
Richard E. Mooney was the former executive editor of The Hartford Courant. He died Jan. 9 in Manhattan, at 91.