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One year ago: John Elson

September 7, 2010 |  6:00 am

Elson The question sparked magazine sales, reader comments and controversy.

John T. Elson wrote a memorable 1966 cover story for Time magazine called "Is God Dead?" The issue broke records for newsstand sales.

"The story brought a brimstone of controversy, but given the depth of the reporting, few could argue that the writer had not done his homework," Jim Kelly, former Time managing editor, wrote after Elson's death a year ago at age 78.

Elson, a prolific editor and writer during four decades with the magazine, was religion editor when he wrote the controversial essay. Elson read 40 books and drew on interviews with more than 300 people -- ranging from Simone de Beauvoir and Billy Graham to a Greek janitor and an Israeli streetwalker -- conducted by 32 Time correspondents.

"He was writing it on a very serious level. People took it on a very emotional level," Rosemary Elson, his wife, told The Times' Elaine Woo. "If you read the last paragraph, you would know what his opinion was. He certainly believed, but he was always questioning."

Read more about Elson is The Times' obituary.

--Keith Thursby

Photo: John Elson and his wife, Rosemary.