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George W. Cornell, Dean of American Religion Writers, Dies at 74

August 10, 1994 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ George W. Cornell, dean of American religion writers during the more than four decades he covered the beat for The Associated Press, died today. He was 74.

Cornell had suffered from heart problems the past two years. He was found dead in his Manhattan apartment this morning by his son, Harrison.

″George Cornell loved his beat and it was a beat that he pioneered, both for the AP and journalism,″ said AP Executive Editor William E. Ahearn. ″He covered religion with skill and spirit that earned him the respect and affection of religious leaders and readers throughout the world, as well as his AP colleagues.″


Born July 21, 1920, in Weatherford, Okla., Cornell was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He joined the AP in New York in October 1947 as a general assignment reporter.

When he began specializing in religion coverage in 1951, his columns were the first on the subject carried on a regular basis by a news wire service. He won virtually every award offered for journalistic excellence in the field of religion and wrote a half-dozen books.

In addition to two columns a week, Cornell turned out special Christmas and Easter series, each of five or more installments, for more than 30 years.

Among the major stories he covered were the mid-century rise of the ecumenical movement for Christian unity and the dramatic reforms in Roman Catholicism.

His assignments took him to World Council of Churches assemblies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Canada and to religious centers in Turkey, Switzerland and Italy. He covered the first papal trips to Israel and Bombay, India, as well as papal visits to the United States.

Cornell is survived by his wife, Jo Ann of Weatherford; a son, Harrison, 34, of New York City, and a daughter, Marion Emma, 39, of Auburn, Calif.

Funeral arrangements were pending.