Former presidential press secretary and journalist Pierre Salinger was remembered yesterday as a brilliant reporter and a critical messenger for John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier.
Mr. Salinger, who died Saturday in France, started his career as a print journalist, served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and went on to work as a television reporter, including in Paris and London.
“I’m sure Jack and Jackie and Bobby are in seventh heaven right now because they’re so glad to be reunited with Pierre at last,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who delivered the eulogy for his family’s loyal and longtime friend, referring to the former president, his wife and his brother. “They’d be the first to tell you they couldn’t have had the New Frontier without him.”
Political and press notables were among the 300 to 400 mourners at the Holy Trinity Church in Washington, where John Kennedy used to attend Mass. They included former presidential hopefuls George McGovern and Gary Hart, and former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter, Linda Johnson Robb, as well as newsmen Ben Bradlee, Ted Koppel, Sam Donaldson, Art Buchwald and Chris Matthews.
Mr. Salinger died of heart failure at a hospital near his home in Le Thor, France, where he had moved to escape the presidency of George W. Bush, said his wife, Nicole Salinger. He had undergone surgery earlier in the week to implant a pacemaker.
The World War II Navy veteran was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, recalled when Mr. Salinger first met the Kennedy brothers, eventually working on John Kennedy’s Senate staff, then later as his campaign press secretary. After the president’s death, Mr. Salinger remained close friends with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Mr. Kennedy described Mr. Salinger as an accomplished pianist who used to play at a Nantucket, Mass., restaurant while he and the Kennedys waited for a table. Early on, Mr. Kennedy remembered, guests would leave their tables sooner so they could listen to the music in the next room, freeing up a table. But as time went on, he said, customers lingered over coffee because they realized that the music stopped when Mr. Salinger got a table.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to a dear, dear friend like Pierre. He made us feel like family, too,” Mr. Kennedy said.