Wilton Wynn covered Mideast wars and peacemaking for years before he moved to Rome and covered the early days of John Paul II's history-changing papacy.
As Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he frequently accompanied the well-traveled pope abroad. The pope took notice of Wynn's coverage, and when the journalist retired in 1985 for health reasons, he offered a papal blessing. Covering the papacy brought the Arkansas-born Baptist closer to Catholicism, and after he retired, Wynn coverted.
Wynn died Thursday at his apartment in Rome after a long illness. He was 90, and his widow, Leila, said his personal memories of covering the pope were the highlights of his long and distinguished career.
"Before giving him the blessing, the pope apologized because he was not wearing his white cassock," Leila Wynn recalled Thursday.
Wilton Wynn remained a close friend of John Paul II's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who recently visited Wynn in the hospital.
Born in Prescott, Arkansas, Wynn graduated from Louisana State University and went to work on a number of southern newspapers, including The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. He served as head of the department of journalism at the American University in Cairo from 1945-47, where he met his future wife, a student in one of his classes. He was director of journalism at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from 1947-50.
He spent more than 25 years in Cairo and Beirut, Lebanon, including working as The Associated Press bureau chief in Cairo from 1955-61 before joining Time.
While the AP's Cairo correspondent, he wrote a book about Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and his rise to power, "Nasser of Egypt: The Search for Dignity," and in 1988 he published a book about three popes, "The Keepers of the Keys."
He covered both the 1973 war in which Egypt fought Israel and their peace treaty in 1979, before moving to Rome.
"What I want from this visit," Sadat told Wynn during the historic flight that took him to Jerusalem in 1977, "is that the wall created between us and Israel, the psychological wall, be knocked down."
Sadat, for his peacemaking, was named Time Man of the Year in 1977.
Wynn had been stricken twice with cancer, and died with his wife and a niece by his side.