John Halaby, 87; reporter chronicled rise of Jordan
AMMAN, Jordan - John Halaby, the longtime Jordan correspondent for the Associated Press who pioneered international journalism in his adopted country, died early yesterday. He was 87.
His son Jamal Halaby, who succeeded his father as Jordan correspondent, said the elder Halaby died in an Amman hospital of heart and respiratory failure. He continued to work until 2007 following a career that extended through most of Jordan’s modern history as an independent country.
During those years, the affable, smiling Mr. Halaby made friends with Jordanians from the royal palace to Bedouin tents as he reported the wars and internal turmoil that marked the country’s transition from a remote desert backwater to a modern state.
His amiable, dignified style won him the respect of the region’s movers and shakers as well as his colleagues, who relied on his rich knowledge and widespread contacts to help them do their jobs.
“John was an extraordinary reporter for AP, plugged in at every important outlet of potential news,’’ said retired AP correspondent Nick Ludington, former chief of AP services in the Middle East. “John was delightful company, a fluent and amusing source of Mideast lore and gossip.’’
After his retirement, Mr. Halaby once said of his colleagues: “You feel the people who work with you are your friends and brothers.’’
Born in Jaffa, now a suburb of the Israel city of Tel Aviv, Mr. Halaby moved to Jordan in 1945, the year before the Jordanian kingdom was granted full independence from Britain.
In 1946, he became the first accredited journalist working full time for an international news organization when he opened a bureau for the Reuters news agency in the northern Jordanian city of Salt. During those years, the Jordanian capital of Amman, now a bustling city of 2 million people with white-stone villas and glitzy shopping malls, was little more than a village. He struck up a friendship with the dashing young King Hussein, who would invite reporters for weekly conversations over cigars and tea and who would later marry Mr. Halaby’s American cousin, Lisa Halaby, who became Queen Noor.
Mr. Halaby’s wife, Alice Zugheib-Halaby, died in September 1997. In addition to his son, he leaves three daughters.