Jules Edward Loh, 79, an Associated Press reporter for nearly 40 years who traveled the United States, reaching every state and using his honeyed Georgia accent to charm his way into the hearts, minds, and lives of Americans famous and obscure, died early Sunday.

To write Lords of the Earth, a 1971 book about the Navajo Indians of Arizona, he became so close to tribal elders that they named him Poputiney, meaning "many pencils."

Despite numerous journalism awards by the time he retired in 1997, Mr. Loh said of himself: "I am a reporter, period. They can chisel that on my gravestone."

Mr. Loh died at his home in Tappan, N.Y., from complications after recent abdominal surgery, said Eileen Loh, his daughter.

Born May 29, 1931, in Macon, Ga., Mr. Loh served in the U.S. Air Force, attended Georgetown University, and joined the AP in Louisville, Ky., in 1959.

During 39 years with the news agency, he covered earthquakes in Alaska, California, and Mexico City; space shots; political campaigns; and both Kennedy assassinations, delivering the story in fast, facile prose.

In 1976, Mr. Loh began a six-year stint of roaming the country for AP and writing twice-weekly columns called "Elsewhere in America," about unusual people and places.

His subjects included the nation's "ugliest junkyard" in Virginia and its "worst saloon" in Montana, a man in a town called Dooms who had been hit by lightning seven times, a Connecticut celebration honoring Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold, and an 88-year-old Ohioan who had invented a better mousetrap and was still waiting for the world to beat a path to his door.

As for his pocketful of pencils that had so fascinated the Navajo, his daughter, Eileen Loh, recalled that the idiosyncrasy stemmed from his experience in Alaska. While covering the earthquake, his ballpoint pens froze. - AP