Jack Payton, an editor at Voice of America and a former diplomatic editor of the Tampa Bay Times who supervised a network of foreign correspondents and reported from capitals around the world, died on Friday. He was 69.
Voice of America, the U.S. government-run radio service in Washington, reported on its website that Mr. Payton suffered an apparent heart attack while at a movie theater with his wife, Sharrie, on Friday. He had held a number of senior positions since joining Voice of America's news division in 1999 and was executive editor of its principal English-language website at the time of his death.
Mr. Payton joined Voice of America after more than 14 years with the Times as foreign news editor and later as diplomatic editor writing columns and news stories from Washington and from around the world.
He covered some of the biggest international stories for the newspaper, anchoring its coverage of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa in 1994 and the Mideast peace talks in the early 1990s.
"Jack knew his stuff and wrote with a conversational ease that made us all feel smarter," Times editor Neil Brown said. "He was a fixture of our foreign affairs coverage for years, and the St. Pete Times readers were the luckier for it."
Before joining the Times in 1985, Mr. Payton served as foreign editor in Washington for United Press International. He began his career in journalism with the wire service and was based in New Orleans. He went on to report from New York, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia for UPI. Among his assignments was coverage of Pope John Paul II while based in Rome as UPI's manager for Italy.
He is survived by his wife, his mother and two sisters.
Information from Voice of America was used in this report.