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Subject: Michael Kelly, 46, Editor and Columnist

Dies in Iraq
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Date Posted: April 05, 2003 2:32:26 EDT

Michael Kelly, former editor and then editor at large for The Atlantic Monthly and a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, was killed in Iraq yesterday when the military vehicle in which he was riding ran off a road and into a canal south of Baghdad. He was 46.

Mr. Kelly had been traveling with the United States Third Infantry Division. His Humvee came under Iraqi fire, and the driver's evasive action caused the vehicle to roll into the water, trapping both men for about 25 minutes, the Army said. He became the first American reporter to die in the war. The driver was also killed.

A former Washington correspondent for The New York Times, Mr. Kelly joined The Atlantic in 1999. He was its editor until last year. Known for his sharp-edged political commentary, he was watched closely to see if his style would mesh with the magazine's historically earnest demeanor. The concerns were short-lived, and he was credited with having quickly breathed new life into its pages.

"I received many phone calls when he got the job that the Michael Kelly I was about to meet was nothing like the one you would assume from reading his columns," said Cullen Murphy, managing editor of The Atlantic. "And they were right. Mike was a surpassingly affable person and an amazing editor who brought a real understanding of narrative to his job."

The Atlantic won four National Magazine Awards in 2002 and then, to the surprise of many, Mr. Kelly left his position and went to work on a book about the steel industry. As war with Iraq loomed, he decided to return to reporting.

It was not his first time in the gulf, but it was a very different experience. For much of the Persian Gulf war, in 1991, Mr. Kelly traveled alone and wrote a book based on his experiences.

"What Michael Kelly did in the first gulf war was to defy the military restrictions on coverage by basically wandering out into the desert and covering the reality of what was going on," David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and a former colleague, said.

"He came back with a description of horror that was in the tradition of George Orwell and Ernie Pyle," he added.

This time, he traveled with an army. "I am interested in a very specific story," Mr. Kelly said during an interview with The New York Times last Saturday. "I want to tell the story of this division at war in a comprehensive way."

Mr. Kelly was born on March 17, 1957, to Marguerite Kelly, a syndicated family columnist, and Thomas Kelly, a reporter for The Washington Star.

Mr. Kelly graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1979 and worked at The Cincinnati Post and The Baltimore Sun before traveling to Iraq as a freelancer in 1991. His reporting appeared in The New Republic, GQ and The Boston Globe.

His series of articles for the New Republic won a National Magazine Award for reporting and an Overseas Press Award. The book, which resulted from that reporting, "Martyr's Day" (Random House), won the PEN-Martha Albrand Award.

Mr. Kelly joined The New York Times in 1992 and covered the presidential campaign that year. He left The Times for The New Yorker in 1994, writing the magazine's "Letter From Washington."

He became the editor of The New Republic in 1996 and was fired in 1997 because he and the owner, Martin Peretz, disagreed about the magazine's coverage of Vice President Al Gore, a friend of Mr. Peretz.

He was hired as the editor of The National Journal in 1998 and became editor of The Atlantic the next year.

Although he ran a magazine with a significant literary tradition, Mr. Kelly was best known for his fiery column in The Washington Post and his steady assaults on President Bill Clinton.

In addition to his parents, Mr. Kelly, who lived in Swampscott, Mass., is survived by his wife, Madelyn, and their sons, Tom and Jack.

Madelyn Kelly, a former television producer who was engaged to Mr. Kelly during the first gulf war, said there was no question that he was going back for the second.

"I was not that worried," she said. '`He made it back the last time, and I thought he would have to be very unlucky not to return this time."

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