Kelly, who died in a Humvee accident along with a U.S. soldier, was covering the war in Iraq for The Post, where he wrote a weekly syndicated column, and The Atlantic Monthly, where he was an editor-at-large.
“There is some element of danger, but you’re surrounded by an Army, literally, who is going to try very hard to keep you out of danger,” Kelly said in an interview with ABC News last month, according to The Associated Press.
Kelly, 46, was the first American journalist killed in action during the Iraq war. He was also the first embedded journalist to die in the war, although three journalists working outside the Defense Department program have been killed while covering the conflict. Two other journalists are missing.
“Mike was just a phenomenal journalist, with an enthusiasm for his work that was surpassed only by his passion for his family,” Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said Friday.
A conservative columnist and fierce critic of former President Clinton and Vice President Gore, Kelly was an experienced war correspondent. He covered the Persian Gulf War as a freelancer and later turned his reporting on the region into a book, Martyrs’ Day: Chronicle of a Small War.
Kelly’s final Post column, published Thursday, ended with an account of a Tuesday battle at the Karbala Gap: “There were no American fatalities. By full dusk, the sporadic mortar fire had ceased, and everything was quiet except for an occasional bit of light arms fire in the farm fields beyond the bridgehead.”
In introducing his columns to readers, Kelly said: “Writing within the boundaries of conventional political thinking is deeply unsatisfying to readers right now, because the arguments are almost archaic. The columns I like to read are the ones in which you don’t know where the writer is coming from, and you’re not quite sure where the writer is going to end up. In my column, I make my own argument, independent of conventional ideology,” he said.
“Some people knew Michael as one of this country’s most gifted writers and editors. Many knew him as a fiery columnist. I knew him as an honest, funny, caring and even gentle human being,” John Fox Sullivan, the president and group publisher of Atlantic Media, said. “He was one of a kind who will be sorely missed and never forgotten.”
Kelly is survived by his wife, Madelyn, and two sons, Tom, 6, and Jack, 3. Kelly grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of Thomas Kelly, who was a reporter, and Marguerite Kelly, a syndicated columnist who writes about family issues.
Kelly worked for several media outlets during his career, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” The Cincinnati Post and The Baltimore Sun.