Maxine Cheshire, Who Chronicled Beltway Scandals, Dies at 90


The family announced her death late last month. Her son Marc Cheshire said the cause was heart disease.

“We’ve had more bloody trouble with gossip columns,” Mr. Bradlee told Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times in 2005. He added that Ms. Cheshire’s work had required his endless attention: “I spent more time with Max than I spent with Woodward and Bernstein.”

Maxine Hall was born on April 5, 1930, in Harlan, Ky., and she grew up in the years when the mining town known as “bloody Harlan” was roiled by union wars, as the miners fought to organize and the mine owners brutally fought back. Her father, Millard, a lawyer who had represented the miners, was nearly killed on more than one occasion and wore a bulletproof vest to work. Her mother, Sylvia (Cornett) Hall, who worked as her husband’s assistant, kept a gun in the house.

After the death of her father — from natural causes — Maxine dropped out of the University of Kentucky and returned home to live, taking a job at the local paper. But when she learned that the paper’s owner, a local power broker and thug, had marked her family for violence, the family — her mother, Maxine and two younger brothers — left town in the middle of the night. They settled in Knoxville, and Maxine was hired as a police reporter at The Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Her editor later told her: “I hired you to look at. It never occurred to me or to anyone else that you had a brain in your head.” But she was very good at her job.

She once fished a billfold out of a dead man’s blood-soaked pocket so she could identify him and make her deadline, rather than waiting for the police to do it. When a woman was found dead in a lake, Ms. Cheshire solved the mystery behind her demise, and Newsweek ran an article about her detective work, with a photo showing her typing barefoot at her desk, as was her habit.

At The News-Sentinel, she also met Herbert Cheshire, then the United Press bureau chief, though she was cursing at the time of their introduction, furious because the paper refused to run photos she had taken of votes being bought. Nonetheless, they married a few months later, and when Mr. Cheshire was transferred to Washington, she followed him.


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