Richard Townsend Sale 1939 – 2020


Richard T. Sale, 81, an international affairs journalist and novelist, died on May 9, 2020, at Duke Hospice – Hock Pavilion in Durham. The cause was liposarcoma, a rare cancer, said his wife, Carol A. Huff.

An unassuming writer of national security news and fiction novels, Mr. Sale notably worked for The Washington Post, United Press International (UPI), Life Magazine and Aerospace Daily.  His published books include: “Clinton’s Secret Wars,” St. Martin’s Press 2009; “Traitors,” Berkley Books 2003; and “The Blackstone Rangers,” Random House 1971.

His to-be-published work includes an historical fiction based on his coverage for Life Magazine of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and a fictional novel from his reporting inside the Arizona State Prison.

For The Washington Post in 1977, Mr. Sale wrote a six-part series on growing tension in Iran, including the first reports of the instability of Shah Mohammed Reza.

Mr. Sale was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting at UPI by Managing Editor Barry Sussman.  Cited in the nomination was Mr. Sale’s penetration of the U.S. intelligence community to report exclusively on secret developments affecting America’s relations abroad.  This included the  KGB’s construction in the 1980s of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as a giant “bug,” or listening device.

UPI credited Mr. Sale as “an incessant, tireless reader of books on history, diplomatic practice, political biography and theory,” that informed his stories which “never blame or praise political actions, but simply provide a descriptive analysis,” according to the nomination.

After 27 years in Washington, D.C., Mr. Sale lived in Hawaii for six years where his coverage for the Honolulu daily papers included the military’s largest amphibious movement since the Korean War, as well as human interest stories such as the Easter ritual at Punchbowl National Cemetery.

Returning to UPI in 2000, Mr. Sale earned the international service the distinction of being the first news organization to name Osama bin Laden responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.  This was followed by Mr. Sale’s exclusive report of a possible explosion of a nuclear weapon in downtown Washington, D.C.

For the last 15 years, Mr. Sale wrote political analysis on the Sic Semper Tyrannis website of retired Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official.

With a life of accomplishment and refined taste in literature, music and the arts, Mr. Sale was most comfortable with a relaxed style, characterized by having a sophisticated cocktail in a fine restaurant, followed by a hamburger and French fries.

In addition to his wife of 30 years, Carol Huff, Mr. Sale is survived by his children James Sale, and wife, Rebecca, of Pasadena, Calif.; Christopher Spiller of Arvada, Colo.; and Tandis Cavagnuolo of Miami Beach, Fla.; also his grandchildren Addison and Emma Sale; Caden and Coltin Spiller; and Capri and Siena Cavagnuolo.

Other survivors include his former spouse, Haida McGovern of Great Falls, Va.; his sister, Lindsey Tucker Bowen, Ph.D., of Cutler Bay, Fla.; and his half-brother, Edward Sale of Pasadena, Calif.; his in-laws, Fred A. and Ann Huff, brother-in-law, Fred J. Huff of Du Quoin, Ill.; and sister-in-law, Susan Smith, and husband, John of Carbondale, Ill.

Mr. Sale is predeceased by his father, film director and writer Richard B. Sale; and mother, Arline Walker Sale Evans.

He was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., spent his early years in Westchester County, N.Y., and attended Columbia University in New York City, graduating from Principia College in Elsah, Ill.

Mr. Sale was cremated as requested. A Celebration of Life is planned for this summer.  In lieu of flowers and to honor Mr. Sale and his feline friends, the family suggests contributions to the donor’s favorite animal protection agency.

Epicurean thought guided Mr. Sale, who believed that what drove the best of human beings was not a desire for fame or riches or power, but the desire to create something solid, original, and beautiful, something that would endure beyond the reach of time.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Richard Townsend Sale 1939 – 2020

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    “Why not let our hearts go out to bless and save and strengthen rather than condemn. Is that so improbable?” Why indeed.
    RIP Mr Sale.

  2. Fred says:

    I have been much enriched by his writings. I am saddened by his passing. My condolences to his family.

  3. robt willmann says:

    Richard Sale’s articles would say something that was not stale or mundane. I remember one described instances of close-in fighting. If he published articles about the Arizona State Prison before his novel about it, they would be enlightening. I am sorry that he has passed away.

  4. Seamus Padraig says:

    May he rest in peace.

  5. Fredrick Wright says:

    I will very much miss Richard Sale’s perspective.

  6. Mark Gaughan says:

    RIP Richard

  7. James T Sale says:

    Thank you Pat for posting this.

  8. Nathan Stroupe says:

    I had the honor of beginning a correspondence with Richard while I was living in Iran in 2016. I will miss his beautiful writing, wit, and moral clarity. He always reminded me of the American author, James Salter and inspired me to pursue a life not driven by twitter and the incessant narcissism that has scarred my generation. He will be deeply missed and my condolences to his friends and family.

  9. dout says:

    Richard Sale was one of the very few that I relished reading. There are few who’s words made me stop, think, and appreciate life quite like Richard did. Thank you and may you RIP.

  10. MPN says:

    RIP. Thank you Pat for posting his articles. Always appreciated reading them.

  11. Carol Huff says:

    Richard was honored to be part of the thoughtful discussions here, encouraged by his respected friend Pat Lang. Your comments are a comfort, thank you.

Comments are closed.