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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 06/18/2010

Unofficial Capitol Hill mayor Kelly dies

By Washington Post editors

Thomas V. Kelly, 86, a Washington native and journalist whose home was such a hub of local life that he was known as the unofficial mayor of Capitol Hill, died of a heart attack Thursday at George Washington University Hospital.

He was the husband of Marguerite Kelly, who has written the Post's Family Almanac column for many years, and father of journalist Michael Kelly, who was killed in 2003 while covering the U.S. invasion of Iraq for the Atlantic Monthly.

Mr. Kelly worked for the old Washington Daily News during the 1950s and '60s, covering the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations and the McCarthy hearings in the Senate. Later, he was a freelance reporter whose irregular series on interesting murder cases were published in the Washingtonian. In 1983, he published a well-received book about The Washington Post, "The Imperial Post," that received mixed reviews. At the time of his death, he was preparing to submit another book, about the life and death of his son Michael.

-- Emma Brown

This post has been updated since it was originally posted.

Mr. Kelly lived for all but 11 of his 86 years on the same Capitol Hill block. He was known for writing annual Christmas plays in which he cast neighborhood children; the plays, children's stories with dialogue that doubled as political commentary, were always staged in the Kellys' backyard before a crowd of parents.

Wrote Ken Ringle, a former Style reporter at The Post: "The family has never had any money, but Marguerite is a fabulous hostess, forever with her New Orleans flair throwing wonderful crowded elegant parties on the cheap, complete with Dixieland bands, flown-in crawfish, and so on. Their enormous dining room has always been a genuine salon where ideas were bandied about and joyously debated while Tom gestured from his end of the table and told stories with his memorable snorting little Irish laugh."

In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Katherine Kelly Bottorff and Meg Kelly Rizzoli, both of Washington, and Nell Conroy, of Darien, Conn., and eight grandchildren.

Stay with for more details.

-- Emma Brown

By Washington Post editors  | June 18, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland  | Tags:  capitol hill, marguerite kelly, thomas kelly  
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My family and I are very saddened to hear the news that Tom Kelly has died. He has always been so kind to us at every meeting, be it in church or on the street. May God bless his wonderful family during this time. Mr. Kelly will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: smerler13 | June 18, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Journalism has lost a grand figure, but laughter has lost an even grander one. That snort!!!!

There are thousands and thousands of young folks who live on the Hill, usually for a couple of years at most. I wish those people could have had one little glimpse at the merriment and longevity that was playing out for decades and decades right under their nose.

Rest in peace, Tom.

p.s. WP: your attempt at humor, with the strike-through of the word "well-received" is inappropriate in a piece like this, and at a time like this.

Posted by: matt29 | June 19, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

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