Lou Cannon Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Lou Cannon    

Foremost Biographer of Ronald Raegan; Editorial Advisor to State Net Capitol Journal in Sacramento

Lou Cannon, known for his political reporting on California and the nation, is the foremost biographer of Ronald Reagan. He has written five books about Reagan, including the acclaimed President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, a Book of the Month Club main selection when originally published by Simon and Schuster in 1991. The late John Chancellor called President Reagan  “indispensable,” saying that it presented “the real Reagan, without the makeup or the handlers, seen through the eyes of the keenest Reagan-watcher of them all.” George F. Will said that Cannon was “Reagan’s best biographer.”

An updated version of President Reagan, published in April 2000 by PublicAffairs, also was a best seller, remains in print, and will be reissued in 2011 for the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth. In 2003, PublicAffairs published Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power, praised by columnist David S. Broder as “another major contribution to Cannon’s definitive portrait of The Gipper.” Michael Barone called the book “essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Ronald Reagan.”

Cannon’s latest book, Reagan’s Disciple: George W. Bush’s Troubled Quest for a Presidential Legacy, is co-authored with his eldest son, Carl M. Cannon, a prize-winning White House correspondent. It was published in 2008 by PublicAffairs.  The New York Times said this book was “sharp and discriminating” while The Washington Post found it “persuasive.” The Economist called the Cannons “canny, diligent reporters…[who] have produced as subtle an account of the past seven years as you could wish for.”

Lou Cannon worked 26 years for The Washington Post, where he won many awards and was described as a “reporter’s reporter” by his colleagues. Subsequently, he was a contributing editor and then chief executive officer of California Journal, an acclaimed non-partisan magazine that was published from 1970 to 2005. He is now editorial advisor to State Net Capitol Journal in Sacramento, for which he writes a monthly “Cannon Perspective” column. Cannon lectures on the presidency, the media, California politics, and police issues and has written for Smithsonianmagazine, National Review, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.

Cannon’s noteworthy books include Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD, published in 1998 by Times Books and in paperback in 1999 by Westview Press. Garry Wills called this monumental social history “a classic.” The Los Angeles Times ranked Official Negligence among the best non-fiction books in 1998. The newspaper’s Jim Newton said the book is “the definitive work of modern Los Angeles, a massive effort to see the nation’s most dynamic city at its most important crossroads.”

In 2001, PublicAffairs published Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio, a history illustrated from the collection of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. It includes photographs, documents, and artifacts--some published for the first time--plus a 60-minute audio CD with excerpts from key Reagan speeches and a discussion by Cannon of the Reagan legacy. Cannon’s earlier Reagan books include Reagan (1982) and Ronnie & Jesse: A Political Odyssey (1969) a dual biography of Reagan and the flamboyant legislative leader Jesse Unruh. His books on other subjects include The McCloskey Challenge (1972) and Reporting: An Inside View(1977).

Born in New York City and raised in Reno, Nevada, Cannon attended the University of Nevada in Reno (now UNR) and San Francisco State College. After service in the U.S. Army he became a reporter for various California newspapers and covered Reagan’s first years as governor of California for the San Jose Mercury-News. He moved to Washington as a national correspondent for Ridder Publications. Beginning in 1972 he worked for The Washington Post, as political reporter, White House correspondent, columnist, and Los Angeles bureau chief. During the Reagan presidency, Cannon was senior White House correspondent for The Washington Post and wrote a weekly syndicated column.

Cannon was honored by the American Political Science Association in 1969 for “distinguished reporting of public affairs.” In 1984 he received the White House Correspondents Association’s coveted Aldo Beckman award for overall excellence in presidential coverage. The following year a survey by Washington Journalism Review named Cannon as “the best newspaper White House correspondent.” In 1986, Cannon won the Merriman Smith award for excellence in presidential news coverage—a single story written under deadline pressure. He won the first Gerald R. Ford Prize (1988) for distinguished reporting on the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan presidencies.

On October 1, 2000, Cannon wrote the cover story, “One Bad Cop,” for The New York Times Magazine, describing how the violent actions of a rogue officer had plunged the LAPD into crisis.

In 1995 Cannon was Raznick Distinguished Lecturer in the history department of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In 1996 he was Freedom Forum journalist in residence at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.

Cannon has four children and eight grandchildren. He and his wife, Mary, live in Summerland, near Santa Barbara, California.

Related Speakers View all


More like Lou