Long-term independent reporter Connie Lawn died April 2, 2018 at her Lake Barcroft home in Falls Church, VA. She was 73. Her death from a rare form of Parkinson disease was confirmed by her husband, Dr. Charles Sneiderman. Connie said she had a full and exciting life, but she was proudest of her family, including her husband, her sons David and Daniel Rappaport, and their families.
Connie was longest-serving member of the White House Press corps at 50 years. She came to Washington in l967, after graduating from Simmons College in Boston and studying at Harvard and L’Institut Science Politique in Paris. After brief stints as a staffer on Capitol Hill and as a reporter for all-news radio WAVA in Washington, Connie signed up as a volunteer supporter for Senator Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire. She soon saw journalism as more important than politics and morphed into a freelance reporter. She moved to the Bobby Kennedy campaign and was one of the few “girls on the bus” or the Kennedy press plane, until the bitter end. She had one of the last interviews with him, and stood near him when he was assassinated in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Connie broadcast nonstop for several days and nights until he died. 1968 was one of the most intense and tragic years in modern American history. In addition to the Kennedy shooting, Connie covered the riots following the earlier death of Martin Luther King. Jr. She also went to Chicago where she was beaten up during the Democratic Convention. In August, she went to Prague, to cover the Russian invasion.
On the campaign trail, Connie picked up a number of clients in this country and around the world. Some stayed with her for over 20 years. Her international radio clients included networks in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, South Africa, and other countries. She created a news bureau, calling it Audio Video News. In 1982 she was briefly kidnapped in Lebanon, while covering the expulsion of the PLO. Other major stories followed over the years, including Vietnam protests, the shooting of Ronald Reagan, the Watergate scandal, the Nixon resignation, and all the drama and tragedy of recent years. The stories just keep coming. Many of them are recounted in her book, “You Wake Me Each Morning – The Final Chapter.” A documentary on Connie’s life and career is in production.
Connie had an especially close relationship with New Zealand which gave her major honors. A champion race horse was named after her. Connie (not the horse!) was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Zealand National Press Club in 2006. It has now been donated to the U.S. National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In 2012 she was awarded an Honorary New Zealand Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth. The honor was bestowed on her in Washington by Mike Moore, then Ambassador to the US and a former prime minister of NZ. The mayor of her hometown, Long Branch, NJ designated a Connie Lawn Day and she was given a key to the city in 2016.
Connie’s life will be celebrated in the near future; details will be announced at lakebarcroft.org. Her family would most appreciate contributions in her memory to Capital Caring Hospice or to Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area.