Biography of John Gunther
John Gunther (August 30, 1901 – May 29, 1970) was an American journalist and author whose success came primarily in the 1940s and 1950s with a series of popular sociopolitical works known as the "Inside" books. He is best known today for the memoir Death Be Not Proud about the death of his teenage son, Johnny Gunther, from a brain tumor.
Gunther grew up on the north side of Chicago. In 1922 he was awarded a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from the University of Chicago, where he was literary editor of the student paper.
He worked briefly as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News in Chicago, but soon resigned and moved to Europe. There he found a position with the Daily News London Bureau where he covered Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
Gunther met Frances Fineman in London in 1925 and the two were married in 1927. Through 1936 they worked together—Frances as a foreign correspondent for the London News Chronicle—throughout Europe. Gunther wrote, "I was at one time or another in charge of Daily News offices in London, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Rome, and Paris, and I also visited Poland, Spain, the Balkans, and Scandinavia. I have worked in every European country except Portugal. I saw at first hand the whole extraordinary panorama of Europe from 1924 to 1936."
Gunther later described those years as
the bubbling, blazing days of American foreign correspondence in Europe. . . . Most of us traveled steadily, met constantly, exchanged information, caroused, took in each other's washing, and, even when most fiercely competitive, were devoted friends. . . . We were scavengers, buzzards, out to get the news, no matter whose wings got clipped.
With the success of the Inside books starting in the late 1930s, Gunther resigned his position to devote full-time to the books. During World War II he worked as a war correspondent in Europe.
The Gunthers had two children: Judy, who died in 1929 before the age of 1, and John, Jr. (Johnny), who was born in 1929 and died in 1947 of a brain tumor. The Gunthers divorced in 1944.
Gunther married Jane Perry Vandercook in 1948; the two adopted a son.
Gunther died of liver cancer on May 29, 1970.