November 02, 1998 12:00 PM

As a young newspaper reporter in the 1930s, Cleveland Amory was so sickened by a bullfight he witnessed on the Mexican border that when the animal’s ears were cut off as a trophy, he picked up a cushion and threw it at the matador.

Eventually his weapons changed, but his target did not. Over the course of his 81 years, the curmudgeonly Amory, who died of an abdominal aneurysm in his Manhattan apartment on Oct. 14, was a novelist, a social commentator in several books and on NBC’s Today, and chief critic for TV Guide. But he was perhaps best known for his crusade to stop man’s inhumanity to beast. “His angle was to always fight against any kind of cruelty,” says Marian Probst, his assistant for 37 years. “He was the kind of guy who always swam upstream.”

The Boston-reared son of a textile manufacturer, Amory, a Harvard grad who served in Army intelligence during World War II, founded New York City’s Fund for Animals in 1967, and, as the charity’s unpaid president, championed such causes as a 1979 protest against the clubbing to death of Canadian baby harp seals. Of his books, none was as popular as 1988’s 1.5 million-selling The Cat Who Came for Christmas, the story of a sickly stray he adopted on Christmas Eve and named Polar Bear. Stepfather to University of Pittsburgh education professor Gaea Leinhardt, the twice-married Amory will be buried next to Polar Bear at the Black Beauty Ranch, a 1,150-acre refuge for abused animals he helped establish near Murchison, Texas. “He was a great writer too,” says Amory’s sister Leonore Sawyers. “But animals were always his greatest concern.”

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