Former AP correspondent Wheeler dies at 88

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Associated Press

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 7:02 PM

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — John Fenton Wheeler, an Associated Press foreign correspondent who was the last U.S. reporter expelled from Cold War-era Cuba, has died. He was 88.

Wheeler died on April 21, according to an obituary from Parker Funeral Service in Columbia, Mo.

Wheeler's 21-year AP career began in 1964 in Columbus, Ohio. He then transferred to the foreign desk in New York before being sent to Havana in 1967. Wheeler was kicked out of the country in 1969 for coverage deemed unfavorable to Fidel Castro's government. It would be three decades before the AP returned to Cuba with a full-time resident correspondent.

"As the Associated Press correspondent and an American in Cuba, I was considered from the outset as part CIA agent, part Pentagon representative and part mouthpiece for the State Department," Wheeler later wrote.

He then became AP's chief of bureau in Madrid, covering Spain and Portugal. He later was bureau chief in Lima, Peru, before retiring from the news cooperative in 1985.

Wheeler was born on April 10, 1925, in Salina, Kan. A 1949 graduate of the University of Kansas journalism school, he began his career as a copy editor for the Topeka Daily Capital and then worked as a news editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in Texas. After leaving the AP, Wheeler worked as a senior editor for the Tulsa World in Oklahoma until 1991.

He retired to Columbia in 1994. Wheeler wrote a 2008 memoir chronicling his reporting efforts from Cuba entitled "Last Man Out."

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