Our headline was taken from a line written by David Remnick, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the editor of the New Yorker. Remnick, in a remembrance posted on the website of the New Yorker, is referring to the death of Ben Bradlee, who was the former executive editor of The Washington Post for more than two decades, ending in 1991. Bradlee died at his home of natural causes on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, at age 93, the Post reported.
The obituary in Post rival The New York Times says: “With full backing from his publisher, Katharine Graham, Mr. Bradlee led The Post into the first rank of American newspapers, courting controversy and giving it standing as a thorn in the side of Washington officials.
“When government officials called to complain, Mr. Bradlee acted as a buffer between them and his staff. ‘Just get it right,’ he would tell his reporters. … Mr. Bradlee — ‘this last of the lion-king newspaper editors,’ as Phil Bronstein, a former editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, described him — could be classy or profane, an energetic figure with a boxer’s nose who almost invariably dressed in a white-collared, bold-striped Turnbull & Asser shirt, the sleeves rolled up.”
The Washington Post’s obituary of its former executive editor says: “From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.
“The most compelling story of Mr. Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.”
That president was Richard Nixon. In the movie “All the President’s Men,” which was about the scandal, Jason Robards Jr. famously portrayed Bradlee, and Robards won an Oscar for the role.
The Bradlee obituary on the website of Vanity Fair, by Todd S. Purdum, says: “Bradlee’s self-confidence was the stuff of legend, and, as the saying goes, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. When he walked through the newsroom of the Post that he single-handedly had made (in Post editor Meg Greenfield’s words) ‘dangerous to people in government,’ he clanked between the waist and knees (as he would have himself confessed). Lesser men, and lesser journalists, would have given their ‘left one’ (as he also would have put it), to have a tenth of his talent, fame, or wealth.
“His pedigree was Brahmin and his blood was blue. His maternal great-uncle, Frank Crowninshield, was the founding editor of Vanity Fair. He spoke grammatically perfect French with an unyielding Boston accent. He survived four years of naval service on destroyers in the Pacific during World War II and made a splash as Newsweek’s man in Paris in the golden days of the postwar 1950s. But his greatest break came through a willful bit of luck, when he found himself the Georgetown neighbor of his fellow Harvard graduate, Senator John F. Kennedy, when they and the world were both still young. They shared parties and children and drinks and danger.”
We urge you to click on any of the links in this story to read more about legendary editor Bradlee.
Ben Bradlee on CNN in 2006