John T. “Jack” Skelly was born on June 1, 1927, and died on November 8, 2016.
He was a journalist.
Skelly wrote for a number of news organizations focusing primarily on Latin America and served for a brief period in 1959 as Fidel Castro’s international press coordinator.
He was born to American parents of Irish descent in the Dominican Republic.
The family relocated to Cuba a year later where his father, George Martin Skelly, was head of the railroad department for the United Fruit Sugar Co.
Skelly spent his formative years in the town of Banes where Castro’s first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, was a neighbor, close childhood friend, and later a mutual teenage crush.
He was in Cuba on assignment for United Press when the Batista regime collapsed and Fidel Castro came to power in January, 1959.
He attended high school at Mt. St. Joseph’s High School in Baltimore, Maryland, followed by a two-year stint the Army where he was stationed in Austria and Germany.
Then, he attended George Washington University where he obtained a degree in journalism.
Jack married Lucy Alexander Freeman in 1953, with whom he was to father seven children.
His thorough grounding in the languages and cultures of the United States and Latin America, much less common during the years that spanned his career than it has become in more recent years, along with his skills as a writer and interviewer, made him uniquely qualified to report and comment on the political upheaval that roiled Latin America during those decades.
Jack Skelly referred to himself as an “American Cuban,” or one of the more generic “bamboo Americans”, children born of American parents who grew up in Latin America.
Also to his distinguished career as a reporter, he served as advisor and speech writer for U.S. presidents of both political parties who sought his insights and assistance in delicate matters concerning intelligence operations and international relations.
During various times during his career, he was a correspondent for the now defunct Washington Star, a publicist for the Pan American Coffee Bureau, and a special assistant to two Organization of American States secretaries general.
Jack Skelly was also Washington Bureau Chief for Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia.
Jack Skelly passed away at 89 years old.