WASHINGTON — Jerry Warren, a newspaper editor who became the deputy White House press secretary under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, but who returned to newspaper work after being disillusioned by the Watergate scandal, died on Friday in Arlington, Va. He was 84.
Mr. Warren, who lived in Alexandria, Va., had been suffering from cancer and pneumonia, his family said in confirming the death.
Mr. Warren left the White House in 1975 and returned to The San Diego Union to become its editor. After The Union merged with The Evening Tribune in 1992, he edited The Union-Tribune until early 1995. He had been assistant managing editor of The Union in the 1960s.
Former colleagues said over the weekend that he had pushed for more coverage of civil rights issues after the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965. Senior editors were not always receptive to his ideas, and by 1968, when Nixon won the White House, Mr. Warren felt that his career had stalled.
So he pounced when he was offered a job as deputy press secretary to the new president, a conservative Republican like Mr. Warren. He served under Ronald L. Ziegler, Nixon’s press secretary, and loved the perks of power: the limousines, the red telephone in the family home connecting him to the White House (“It rang all hours of the day and night,” his first wife, Euphemia Davis, told The Union-Tribune), the trips with Nixon to China and the Soviet Union (and flying home with Russian vodka).
But the Watergate break-in on June 17, 1972, followed by investigations, congressional hearings and White House denials until Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, demoralized him.
“He was very wounded,” his daughter, Euphemia Johnson, said on Sunday in a telephone interview. “Such a betrayal.”
Gerald Lee Warren was born in Hastings, Neb., on Aug. 17, 1930. His father, Hie Warren, was a school superintendent; his mother, Linnie, was a teacher. Jerry Warren graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in journalism, served four years as a naval aviator, and then became a reporter and later an editor for The San Diego Union.
Both of Mr. Warren’s marriages ended in divorce. Besides his daughter, Mr. Warren is survived by a son, Gerald, and two grandchildren.
In 1985, while helping to plan the 25th-anniversary celebration of the University of California, San Diego, Mr. Warren organized a symposium on the presidency. Participants included H. R. Haldeman, a former top Nixon aide, and Theodore C. Sorensen, a confidant of President John F. Kennedy, as well as John Chancellor of NBC News.
After he left the newspaper business in 1995, Mr. Warren moved to Virginia with his second wife, Viviane. He was active in the Episcopal Church and studied at the Virginia Theological Seminary, graduating in 2004 with a master’s degree in theology. He became a lay reader at his church and sometimes counseled people in matters of faith.
A spiritual journey “dominated the rest of his life,” Mr. Warren wrote.