Keith Fuller, 79, former president of The Associated Press and a 36-year
veteran of the news service, died Friday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He had
suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Fuller joined the AP in New Orleans in 1949. By the time he retired in 1985
as president (he had assumed the post in 1976), his career had spanned "from
Louisiana Gov. Earl Long slopping the hogs on his pea-patch farm to Ronald
Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meeting at the summit."
As president (1976 through 1985), he is credited with leading AP's international
expansion, its increased broadcast-news efforts and its diversification into other
In addition to a variety of postings at AP, Fuller also had a brief stint in
1955 as news director at KCBD-AM-TV Lubbock, Texas. Fuller actually broke into
radio in 1946, however, as host of a 15-minute consumer report on WRR(AM)
Dallas, sponsored by the Better Business Bureau.
He was in law school at the time, but that two-and-a-half-year radio stint
helped to steer him into journalism. That, along with being editor of the school paper and
working full-time on the Dallas News. It was a hectic pace. Later, as an Air Force bombardier, he was shot down over France and
spent time in German POW camps. He once told Broadcasting & Cable
that during his days of carrying a full law school load and an overfull
journalism load, "I was more emaciated then than I was in prison camp. I got
less and less interested in practicing law and more and more interested in
Fuller moved from New Orleans to Dallas in 1954, then to KCBD, where he
concluded, "I wasn't going to be a Walter Cronkite."
He returned to AP and a posting at the then-sleepy outpost of Little Rock,
Ark. In fact, an uncle wrote him: "What have you done to deserve Little Rock,
which hasn't had a news story since the Civil War battle of Pea Ridge?" Then, of
course, came the integration of Central High School, and Fuller had one of the
biggest stories in the nation.
That career boost got him Denver, from which, in short order, he presided
over coverage of an earthquake, a kidnapping/murder and a bloody prison riot.
"I was getting a reputation as a troublemaker," Fuller once said, "because
everywhere I went, something happened."
He next move was to New York under future AP president Wes Gallagher, whom
Fuller would ultimately succeed.
Fuller was succeeded as AP's chief executive by Lou Boccardi, who remains
president and CEO.
After retirement, Fuller served on the board of Gannett Co. Inc.
He is survived by his wife, Mattisue Scott, a daughter and two sons. -- Additional information was supplied by AP special correspondent Hugh A.