Robert Anthony “Tony” Snow ’77

Robert Anthony “Tony” Snow ’77, the former television and radio talk show host who became President Bush’s chief spokesman and redefined the role of White House press secretary with his lively banter with reporters, passed away on July 12 at Georgetown University Hospital after losing a high-profile battle with colon cancer. In his brief tenure as President Bush’s public advocate, Tony became perhaps the best-known face of the administration after the president, vice president, and secretary of state. He was the first press secretary in years routinely asked to sign autographs and pose for pictures while on the road. Tony leavened his tense tenure with humor and music. He was friends with the members of Jethro Tull and played flute, saxophone, and backup guitar in his own band, called Beats Workin’. He also appeared on National Public Radio’s weekly humor show, “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” From the beginning, Tony was open about his battles with cancer. His mother had died of colon cancer when he was in high school, and he frequently said he felt he had been “stalked by cancer.” It struck him in February 2005 when a checkup found that he had the same cancer that killed his mother. Tony was born June 1, 1955, in Berea, Ky., and grew up in Cincinnati. He attended Davidson, where he sported a beard and ponytail and was a self-described Marxist, but he grew disaffected with American liberalism before graduating with a philosophy degree in 1977. He shuffled from job to job, first as a caseworker for the mentally ill in North Carolina, then as a teacher in Cincinnati and Kenya, before doing graduate work in economics and philosophy at the University of Chicago. In 1979, he discovered journalism. He started as an editorial writer for conservative editor Terry Eastland at the Greensboro Record in North Carolina, then followed Eastland to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, and eventually moved to the Daily Press of Newport News. In 1984, Snow became deputy editorial editor for the Detroit News, where he met and married the editor’s secretary, Jill Ellen Walker. In 1987, the same year as their wedding, he became editorial page editor at the Washington Times. President George H.W. Bush recruited him to the White House as a speechwriter, although infighting later relegated him to a backwater job in the media affairs office. After that, Tony wrote a syndicated column and branched out to broadcast, filling in for radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Diane Rehm and doing commentary on NPR, CNN, and ABC’s Good Morning America. Roger Ailes, who met Tony in the first Bush White House, hired him in 1996 to launch a Sunday show for the upstart Fox News network. Tony made a national name for himself during the next seven years at the helm of Fox News Sunday. He also played a bit part in the Monica Lewinsky scandal that nearly felled President Bill Clinton: he introduced a friend from the first Bush White House named Linda Tripp to book publisher Lucianne Goldberg, helping set in motion a chain of events that resulted in an investigation and impeachment of the president. After Tony was replaced at Fox News Sunday in 2003 by Chris Wallace, he launched a Fox radio talk show, heard on 125 stations nationwide, before becoming White House press secretary. Tony is survived by his wife, Jill Snow, 8733 Plymouth Rd., Alexandria, VA 22308-2510; children, Kendall, Robbie, and Kristi Snow; father, James Snow; step-mother, Dorothy Snow; brother, Steven Snow (Jennifer Ashbrook).