Penn Kimball, a crusading writer, author and journalism professor who sued the federal government for keeping secret files on himself and his wife in the 1950s, died Friday in Chevy Chase, Md.
Mr. Kimball, 98, had a summer home in Chilmark for more than 50 years, and lived in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs year-round from 1994 to 2009. His daughter, Laura, graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2008.
A professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism from 1958 to 1985, Mr. Kimball had impressive careers both before and after. A print and broadcast journalist who worked for Time magazine among other publications, he earned a Ph.D. from Columbia in political science after retiring from teaching and became a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.
In the 1980s, Mr. Kimball sued the federal government for $10 million after he discovered that he and his late wife, Janet, had been declared national security risks 30 years earlier. He agreed to drop the lawsuit after a federal judge wrote that there was no evidence that he or his wife had ever been disloyal. He told the story in his book “The File,” which became a BBC and later a Frontline documentary. “I refused to believe that you can’t fight the government and bring them to account,” he said.
Besides Laura, he is survived by his second wife, Julie, another daughter, Lisa, all of Washington, D.C., and two nieces and a nephew.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, Dec. 9, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. A service will also be held next summer on Martha’s Vineyard.
A more complete obituary will appear in a later edition of the Gazette.