Ray Moseley (1932–)

Ray Moseley, who was born and reared in eastern Texas, arrived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1956 to write for the Arkansas Gazette and, a year later, led the newspaper’s coverage of the historic crisis at Little Rock Central High School, when the governor used the militia to block court-ordered desegregation of the city’s schools. For over thirty years, he worked for newspapers and press services on four continents covering the great tumults of the times—wars, revolutions, political intrigues, and royal tragedies—and wrote four books about war and its legacy. A series of articles in 1981 about the future of sub-Saharan Africa was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2022, Moseley returned to Little Rock to live.

Ray Neal Moseley was born on December 2, 1932, in Marshall, Texas, the second child of Cordeus Moseley and Veta Blanton Moseley, who ran a small grocery store. Moseley’s father’s first wife had died in childbirth in 1929, and their son died six days later. Moseley’s father died when Moseley was eight, and his mother continued to run the store. After high school, he enrolled at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, where he studied journalism and graduated in 1952. He worked briefly at Texas newspapers—the Galveston Daily News, the Wichita Falls Record News, and the Dallas Times Herald—before being hired in 1956 by the Arkansas Gazette.

The Little Rock Air Force Base, an installation for Strategic Air Command bombers, had just begun operations, and Moseley’s first assignment at the Gazette was to report daily on developments at the base. A year later, he was reporting on politics and the state government when Little Rock began to implement a plan approved by the federal courts to start complying with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision to end segregation in the public schools. Governor Orval E. Faubus, fearing a political backlash from allowing the integration, ordered National Guard troops to Central High School to prevent nine Black children from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to enforce the law. Moseley covered the major events, from the Central High campus to the Arkansas State Capitol, often with another young reporter, Jerry Dhonau. The Gazette won two Pulitzer Prizes in 1958, one for community service and the other for the Gazette’s executive editor and chief editorial writer, Harry S. Ashmore, for the paper’s editorial stand against Faubus and for insisting upon obeying a law that was unpopular with most Arkansans. Boycotts cost the paper millions in revenue from lost advertising and circulation. The second Pulitzer was popularly considered to be a reward at least partially for the newspaper’s coverage of the long tempest, but Moseley believed the Pulitzer board obviously rewarded the newspaper’s elderly editor-in-chief, John Netherland Heiskell, a conservative who nevertheless had risked the survival of his newspaper to stand for the principle of obedience to the law.

The tempest largely over, Moseley left Arkansas in 1959, looking for new adventures. He reported for the Detroit Free Press for two years. He moved to Rome in search of a reporting job and wrote briefly for the Rome Daily American. He returned to the United States to report for United Press International (UPI) in Washington DC and covered the State Department for the Philadelphia Bulletin before returning to UPI. For thirteen years, he headed UPI bureaus across Europe and Asia, wherever there was strife of international interest—notably Rome, Moscow, Belgrade, and Brussels—and he ventured into other countries to report turmoil, such as Tel Aviv for the Six-Day War in 1967. In Moscow, he reported the expulsion of the great novelist and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn after the publication of The Gulag Archipelago.

In 1977, he joined the international staff of the Chicago Tribune, the city’s leading newspaper. He was in Tehran in 1979 covering the Iranian revolution when he had his closest brush with death as a correspondent. Moseley and another reporter were watching a street battle between rebels and forces loyal to shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the country’s last monarch, from a second-floor window in a photography studio when soldiers began firing at them. Moseley fell to the floor, but a bullet struck his friend in the chest, killing him instantly. In London in 1997, Moseley covered the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales.

Moseley eventually settled, with his second wife and family, in London. He retired from the Tribune in 2001. He wrote a book about his experiences as a foreign correspondent, In Foreign Fields: A Veteran Correspondent’s Brushes with Wars, Revolution, Secret Police and Flea-Pit Hotels (2011). Reporting War: How Foreign Correspondents Risked Capture, Torture and Death to Cover World War II (Yale University Press, 2018) is an exhaustive account of the struggles of war correspondents who had to deal with physical perils and also military censorship to report the progress of the war. The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was the subject of two books by Moseley: Mussolini: The Last 600 Days of Il Duce (2004) and Mussolini’s Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano (1999).

After the death of his wife in 2020, Moseley moved back to Little Rock.

For additional information:
Barnes, Steve. Interview with Ray Moseley. PBS, January 16, 2017. https://www.pbs.org/video/barnes-and-conversation-ray-moseley/ (accessed May 25, 2023).

Reed, Roy. Interview with Ray Moseley. David and Barbara Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History, University of Arkansas. November 4, 2000. https://pryorcenter.uark.edu/project.php?thisProject=2 (accessed May 25, 2023).

Ernest Dumas
Little Rock, Arkansas


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