William Borders

William Borders, a former foreign correspondent who rose to senior editing positions at The New York Times in a 46-year career there, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 79.

His son, William, said Mr. Borders’ body was discovered on Thursday. He said an autopsy would be performed.

Fresh from Yale, Mr. Borders joined The Times as a copy boy in 1960. Promoted to reporter, he was assigned over the years to cover Nigeria, Canada, India and Britain before being appointed deputy foreign editor in 1982.

A year later, he was named editor of The Week in Review (now called Sunday Review). He supervised that Sunday section until early 1989, when he was promoted by Max Frankel, the executive editor, to a senior editing position in charge of the newsroom in the evenings as it assembled the next morning’s newspaper. He oversaw the paper’s coverage in those hours, its newsprint presentation and, after the first edition went to press, follow-up planning for the next day.

“Besides practicing distinguished journalism as a reporter and editor,” Mr. Frankel said on Friday, “Bill provided a rare serenity in the midst of all the excitement and so helped us always to keep our cool and achieve our best.”

Mr. Borders later held a top administrative position overseeing Times writing and editing standards, distributing virtually every day a detailed internal “post mortem” critique of what reporters and editors had done right and what they hadn’t. He also acted as a liaison with readers, fielding their questions, complaints and sometimes compliments. He retired in 2006.

William Alexander Borders was born on Jan. 11, 1939, in St. Louis to William Alexis Borders and the former Kate Thompson. His father was a banker and chairman of Ozark Airlines and, during World War II, the chief of staff to General George S. Patton.

Mr. Borders’ marriage in 1967 to Barbara Burkham ended in divorce in 1984. He did not remarry.

Besides his son, he is survived by three grandchildren; his sisters, Carolyn Danforth and Kate Moore; and a brother, John. Another brother, Guy, died in 1975.

His son, who is known as Will, said his father’s death had been unexpected. He said Mr. Borders had been to the opera on Monday night and to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Tuesday morning and was last heard from, by email, on Tuesday night.

At Yale, Mr. Borders, an English major, worked on The Yale Daily News and graduated in 1960 with a bachelor of arts degree. He went on to spend his entire professional life at The Times, leaving only for a six-month stint in the Army Reserve.

He advanced from copy boy to news scriptwriter for the Times’s radio station at the time, WQXR, and then to general assignment reporter before moving on to cover Connecticut.

His first foreign assignment, in 1970, was to Lagos, Nigeria, where he began reporting on the famine in the secessionist state of Biafra during the Nigerian civil war. His initiation, he recalled, was being seized by the Nigerian Army and held captive for two days without food or water.

“Somehow I had been led to believe that the life of a foreign correspondent was a glamorous one — a lot of sitting around beach cabanas with Kings, Prime Minsters, Agas and other such folk and occasionally cabling New York for money,” Mr. Borders later wrote in Times Talk, an internal newsletter that was later discontinued.

“But that was before my trip to Biafra,” he added, “and the image now seems very distant.”

He sometimes doubled as a photographer, especially early in his career in remote places where fresh images were hard to come by.

“The story gets better display if it has pictures,” he told The Lens blog on nytimes.com in 2009, “and I’d often be in places where there were no other pictures.”

As a foreign correspondent he covered, among other events, a military coup in Afghanistan, India’s return to democracy and protests in London against nuclear weapons.

His many articles included one in 1968 on the fierce ideological jockeying between William F. Buckley Jr. and the diplomat Cyrus R. Vance for a seat on the Yale Corporation; another, in 1978, was on the sharp break with modesty in India that catapulted a titillating, or scandalizing, kiss onto the Hindi motion picture screen.

“He was one of the most considerate and thoughtful people I ever knew on the New York Times staff,” said Craig R. Whitney, a former foreign correspondent and editor who recruited Mr. Borders as his deputy. “He had a great sense of humor, was appreciative of good writing and did his best to make sure it survived the editing process.”

Published in The New York Times, March 3, 2018