In 1961, he and Tad Szulc of The Times were the only two reporters who accompanied Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers, to Cuba when he was sent there by the White House to negotiate a prisoner exchange after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. The reporters were given a tour of the scene of the fighting by Fidel Castro.
In 1970, Mr. Boyd witnessed the start of the secret American bombing campaign of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Two years later, he was among the reporters who accompanied Nixon on his historic trip to China.
Mr. Boyd became a science writer in 1993 and Mr. Hoyt succeeded him as the Washington bureau chief.
Robert Skinner Boyd, who was descended from Scottish nobility, was born on Jan. 11, 1928, in Chicago. His father, Alden Work Boyd, was a foreign aid officer and New York department store executive. His mother, Mary Althea (Skinner) Boyd, was a librarian who raised Robert after she and his father divorced.
Mr. Boyd graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., in 1945, and then enrolled in Harvard. After hitches in the Merchant Marine and the Army, he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ancient languages in 1949, but then shifted his career goal, from continuing as a linguistics scholar to joining the Foreign Service.
Recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency, he was assigned to the Swiss Desk, but became frustrated by the secrecy. He left in 1953 for journalism jobs in Louisiana and Michigan before landing at The Detroit Free Press, part of the Knight newspapers chain.
His first marriage, to Gloria Paulsen, ended in divorce. In 1983, he married Ann Cullingworth, who survives him along with their daughter, Hollis McLaughlin; four children from his first marriage, Peter, Andrew and Tim Boyd and Susan Allan; two stepchildren, Jennifer Lauchlan and Harry Rust V; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.