WASHINGTON — Rowland Evans, a syndicated columnist and longtime CNN host known for a courtly but direct manner that sometimes caught his guests off guard, died Friday of cancer. He was 79.
Evans, who had been in poor health for several years, died at Georgetown University Hospital.
He was half of the print and television duo Evans & Novak. With Robert Novak, another columnist and longtime CNN host, he co-hosted “Evans & Novak,” a political interview show on CNN, for nearly 20 years. In June 1998, the Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt and syndicated columnist Mark Shields joined the program. The show then was renamed “Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields.”
“Rowland has been a part of the CNN family from its beginning,” said CNN News Group chairman Tom Johnson. “He and Bob Novak have been an integral part of what we have done here from the very beginning. He developed great friendships ranging from President Kennedy to President Johnson and others, but he also worked them as sources.”
Evans was born in Whitemarsh, Pa. He graduated from Yale in 1941 and joined the Marines during World War II, serving in the Solomon Islands.
His first job as a reporter was with the old Philadelphia Bulletin.
In 1957, he left to cover Washington and the Senate for the Associated Press.
Evans’ next job was with the New York Herald Tribune, covering U.S. politics from across the globe.
The Evans-Novak relationship, which pitted the two as good-natured but independent-minded conservatives who didn’t always agree, began in 1963 with the joint political column “Inside Report.”
At the time, Novak was a congressional correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. At the peak of its popularity, the column appeared in 300 newspapers throughout the country.
The two made a career of playing off of their differences.
Evans smoked daily; Novak quit 30 years ago. Evans liked to play sports; Novak just liked to watch.
Their common ground was making politicians squirm.
“Evans had a knack for giving a gracious, curious look across that table and saying, ‘Isn’t it true that your tax package is doomed?’ ” said CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno.
In 1993, Evans retired from the column but continued to write occasionally.
The duo co-authored several books, including “Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power” and “The Reagan Revolution.”
Evans is survived by his wife, Katherine, a son and a daughter.