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DC Journalist Godfrey Sperling Jr. dies at 97

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September 12, 2013 02:42 PM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — Godfrey Sperling Jr., a journalist who hosted weekly newsmaker breakfasts for decades, has died. He was 97.

Sperling's daughter, Mary Sperling McAuliffe, said her father died in his sleep surrounded by family on Wednesday at the Knollwood Military Retirement Community, but she knew no formal cause of death.

Sperling was born in Long Beach, Calif., and grew up in Cody, Wyo., and Urbana, Ill. He studied journalism at the University of Illinois and law at University of Oklahoma and served as an officer in the Air Force during World War II.

"He was born in the West and maintained his love for the West," McAuliffe said. "He loved sports. Many in politics do. They just go together."

Sperling started at the Christian Science Monitor in 1946 and retired in 2005, covering presidential candidates from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton. The Monitor-sponsored "Breakfast With Godfrey" was held for decades at what is now the St. Regis hotel in and attracted many a politician eyeing a presidential run.

Sperling, who was known as "Budge," loved to party, had a wealth of knowledge about and passion for politics, and a tremendous ability to get along with people, so the breakfasts were a perfect combination of his talents, his daughter said.