Donald Larrabee, a respected journalist who owned the Griffin-Larrabee News Service in Washington, D.C., and covered Maine politics on Capitol Hill for newspapers and media outlets across New England, died Tuesday. He was 93.

A Portland native, Mr. Larrabee covered Maine’s congressional delegation and Washington politics for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram for 30 years.

For part of his career, he served as president and board chairman of the National Press Club. He also was executive director of the National Press Foundation from 1979 to 1985, and a founding board member.

Mr. Larrabee, who grew up in Portland, submitted his first column to the Portland Evening Express at age 11. He attended Deering High School and launched Ramblings, the school newspaper, which still exists today.

In 1946, he joined the Griffin News Bureau in Washington, covering Maine and New England politicians and the issues that affected the region. He later acquired the bureau and added a dozen clients, including a chain of newspaper dailies.

According to his obituary, Mr. Larrabee managed a staff of five reporters and served as a correspondent for the Bangor Daily News and for Guy Gannett Newspapers, a predecessor of MaineToday Media, in Portland, Waterville and Augusta. At one point, the news service covered stories in Washington for about 17 newspapers in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Mr. Larrabee retired from journalism in 1978. He was remembered by former colleagues Thursday as a reliable and well-informed reporter who was highly respected in Washington. He closely covered Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress, and Edmund S. Muskie, a U.S. senator from Maine who also served as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter.

“Those were really important and exciting times to be a reporter in Washington,” said Lou Ureneck, a former Portland Press Herald editor, now an author and professor of journalism at Boston University. “Don was a pro. He was accurate, reliable and met his deadlines. You could trust his insights and reporting. He was a pleasure to work with.”

A news story posted on the National Press Club’s website said Mr. Larrabee was “an advocate for journalism.”

“Don was a great storyteller and had lived through so much rich history of the intersection of journalism and politics in Washington,” Tammy Lytle, a press club past president, said in the story. “He was helpful to many National Press Club presidents and cared deeply about the institution of the press and the camaraderie of the club as a meeting place for the nation’s top journalists.”

Sen. Susan Collins tweeted Thursday that “Don Larrabee was a terrific, fair journalist and wonderful man. He’ll be missed by many who had the pleasure of reading his news stories. Don invited me to the Gridiron (Club) dinner one year, where I discovered he could sing beautifully and perform comedy. A man of many talents!”

William S. Cohen, a former Maine senator and secretary of defense, said in an email that “Don was one of the most honest and honorable men I’ve had the privilege to know and call a friend. He was from the old school of journalism, where he wasn’t out to get anyone or anything. Just the facts. … He was a prince of a man, and the very thought of him causes me to smile even as I mourn his loss.”

In 1990, Mr. Larrabee was elected to the Washington Hall of Fame of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2002, we was inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame.

He was married to Mary Beth Larrabee for 47 years before she died in 1996. The couple raised two children.

In 1996, he married the former Barbara Boyle. She died in 2015.

Mr. Larrabee’s daughter, Donna Palmer of Chevy Chase, Maryland, reflected Thursday on her father’s career and life outside the newsroom.

He had a passion for collecting old 8 mm movies, which he played on a projector. His collection included films featuring Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

“He had a lot of them,” Palmer said. “Mom and Dad entertained a lot. Everyone loved to come to our house. Mom was a good cook and Dad showed his movies. It was nostalgia 101. They loved it.”

During his career in Washington, Mr. Larrabee and his family traveled to Maine during the summer months so he could visit with editors and publishers and spend time with family.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date in Washington.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

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