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Mike Cochran, Veteran Texas Reporter, Is Dead at 85


Mike Cochran, who covered Texas for The Associated Press for nearly 40 years and at one point ended up serving as a pallbearer for the presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald while reporting on his funeral, died on Tuesday. He was 85.

The former A.P. executive John O. Lumpkin, a longtime friend, said the cause was cancer.

In 2013, as part of The A.P.’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Mr. Cochran wrote a first-person account of how he had come to be a pallbearer for Mr. Oswald. With no mourners present aside from a few family members, the task of carrying his coffin fell to the reporters covering the funeral.

“I was among the first they asked, my reply not just ‘No!’ but ‘Hell no!’” he wrote. “Then Preston McGraw of United Press International stepped forward and volunteered, and with my top competition for scoops accepting the duty, I realized my error and joined McGraw and other reporters.”

Mr. Cochran’s reporting on the assassination continued for years. He interviewed Mr. Oswald’s widow and mother, investigated conspiracy theories and wrote anniversary stories.

On one anniversary, he recalled approaching Mr. Oswald’s widow, Marina Oswald, at her house. She told him that she was “no longer news,” but when he mentioned his role as a pallbearer, she invited him in. Several hours later, they were “still talking and smoking,” he wrote.

Over the years Mr. Cochran wrote frequently about colorful Texas characters, including Cullen Davis, an oil tycoon acquitted at trial after being accused in a shooting at his mansion that killed his 12-year-old stepdaughter and his estranged wife’s boyfriend; and the flamboyant swindler Billie Sol Estes, who made millions of dollars in phony fertilizer tanks.

Born in Muskogee, Okla., Mr. Cochran grew up in the West Texas town of Stamford and graduated from what is now the University of North Texas in Denton.

He began his career at newspapers in Denton and Abilene before joining The A.P. in 1960 in Dallas and opening the agency’s Fort Worth bureau the next year. He left The A.P. in 1999 and then worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for five years.

He also wrote several books, including “Texas vs. Davis” (1980), about the Cullen Davis murder case

.

He is survived by his wife, Sondra; his son, John; his daughter, Kendyl Arnold; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.



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