Heard on the Hill

Schumer remembers ‘the deacon’ — Robert Pear of The New York Times

News of Pear’s death shook Capitol Hill on Wednesday

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., paid his respects to the late Robert Pear of The New York Times. The two knew each other dating back to their time in college. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol was shaken Wednesday by the sudden death of one of the deans of the congressional press corps, Robert Pear of The New York Times. But perhaps no one in the Senate had known Pear longer than Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Long before Pear was a well-respected expert on health policy and official Washington who spent four decades at The New York Times, and Schumer was a Democratic senator from New York, they were undergraduate classmates at Harvard.

“It just so happens that Robert lived on my floor in college during freshman year. While everyone else in those days had long hair and wore bell-bottoms, Robert had a flat-top, was always studious, inquisitive, polite and very decent, earning him the nickname ‘the deacon,’” Schumer said in mourning Pear on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “He was the first to go into the library, and the last to come out, late at night.”

Pear died Tuesday at age 69 in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., as a result of complications from a stroke, The New York Times reported.

The news of his passing spread Wednesday morning, with senior press aides and fellow journalists offering their own tributes and sharing memories, including how Pear could frequently be found reading printed copies of the Federal Register, looking for policy scoops that were hiding in plain sight for a reporter with his breadth of knowledge.

“Robert maintained the qualities of studiousness and inquisitiveness, politeness, decency throughout his personal and professional life, and in my view he represented the best of America,” Schumer said in his floor speech, calling the death “a loss for journalism itself.”

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