Birthday: August 26, 1921
Died At Age: 93
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee
Born in: Boston
Famous as: Newspaper Editor & Journalist
Quotes By Ben Bradlee
Spouse/Ex-: Antoinette Pinchot, Jean Saltonstall, Sally Quinn
children: Ben Bradlee, Dominic Bradlee, Jr., Marina Bradlee, Quinn Bradlee
Died on: October 21, 2014
place of death: Washington, D.C.
U.S. State: Massachusetts
education: 1945 - Harvard University, Dexter School, St. Mark's School,
Who was Ben Bradlee?
As an executive editor of one of the leading daily newspapers in the United States, Benjamin Bradlee went on to create history with his exceptional ways of journalism and investigations. Being one of the most famous newspaper journalists of his era, he is known to be responsible for publishing the infamous Pentagon papers and exposing the Watergate presidential scandal. Through his never-dying spirit and determination, he contributed news stories and reports to transform ‘The Post’ from an ordinary traditional paper into an influential and respectable metropolitan daily, during his 26-year long tenure. His observations and participations in meetings and conferences, though from the back-end, helped in shaping America, especially during the post-war period. With journalism running in his blood, he was nothing less than brilliant, charming, and game for leadership, which only added to his new and compelling techniques of covering stories, thereby becoming an inspiration for his staff and fellow workers. This larger-than-life personality, who considered journalism more than just a profession, also showed active participation in various institutions of education, history and archeological research. He was referred to as a ‘true newspaperman’ by the American President Barack Obama, upon his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was born into the Boston Brahmin Crowninshield family on August 26, 1921, in Boston, Massachusetts, into a well-to-do family, dating back to three centuries in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
His father, Frederick Josiah Bradlee Jr., was a banker, while mother, Josephine de Gersdorff, was an awardee of the French Legion of Honor.
In 1929, the family’s smooth life was suddenly halted, when the stock market crashed, along with the family’s wealth. His father took to odd jobs during the Great Depression to financially support his family.
He began his early schooling at Dexter School, and later joined St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, where he experienced another life-changing tragedy.
In 1936, he was diagnosed with polio, which left his legs paralyzed for a short period, but he fought back and developed strong arms, legs and chest, with regular exercise.
In 1939, he joined Harvard College, continuing the lineage of his 51 relatives, where he majored in Greek and English, and joined the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program.
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He graduated in 1942 and joined the Office of Naval Intelligence, where he worked as a communications officer for three years on the destroyer USS Philip during the World War II, taking care of classified and coded cables.
When the war ended in 1946, he forayed into journalism, launching the New H.ampshire Sunday News, working as a reporter.
He sold the paper to William Loeb III in 1948, and began working as a crime reporter in The Washington Post, which changed his and the newspaper’s life forever.
He found a friend in Philip Graham, an associate publisher, who helped him secure the job of an assistant press attaché in the American embassy, Paris, in 1951.
In 1952, he joined the US Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), where he broadcast the CIA-directed European propaganda, leading to the controversial spying and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in June 1953.
In 1954, he joined Newsweek as a foreign correspondent. His controversial interview of the secret anti-French Algerian guerilla fighters led to his expulsion from France. He returned to Washington and resumed work at Newsweek.
During 1959, he met the then-senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, which resulted in the two becoming good friends that lasted till Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.
He earned fame when Kennedy was elected president in 1961 and thus, became the bureau chief, after which he convinced Graham to buy Newsweek, thereby becoming a life-changing deal for both Newsweek and The Washington Post.
After working as a bureau chief for four years, he was promoted as a managing editor in 1965 and later executive editor in 1968, which he held till September 1991. Subsequently, he continued serving as the Vice-President.
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In 1971, he and Katharine Graham, who headed the paper after her husband Philip Graham’s suicidal death, printed the Pentagon Papers, a secret study of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and won the case in the Supreme Court.
In June 1972, he supported two young journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who covered the burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex of the White House.
As a result of the investigations revealing his involvement to win a second presidential tenure, Richard Nixon was forced to step down and resign from the office in 1974, thus becoming the first president to do so in the US history.
Awards & Achievements
In 1973, The Washington Post received the Pulitzer Prize for public service, for the Watergate coverage. The newspaper, which had won four awards prior to his entry, went on to add 17 more during his term.
In 2006, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Georgetown University, for his lectures on journalism.
The French government bestowed upon him the country’s highest award, the French Legion of Honor, in Paris, in 2007.
He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama, in November 2013, for his exemplary contribution to journalism at The Post.
He authored two books on President Kennedy - ‘That Special Grace’ (1964) and ‘Conversations with Kennedy’ (1975).
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His memoirs ‘A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures’ was released in 1995.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married his first wife, Jean Saltonstall, in 1942, when he was commissioned as a naval officer. The couple had a son - Benjamin C. Bradlee Jr. of Boston, who served as the deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe.
While working in France, he divorced his first wife and married Antoinette Pinchot Pittman in 1957. The couple gave birth to two children - Dominic Bradlee and Marina Murdock. He divorced Antoinette in 1975.
He developed a close relation with Sally Quinn, a young reporter 20 years his junior, recruited in The Post’s Style section. He divorced Antoinette in 1975 and married Sally three years later in 1878 and had a son - Quinn Bradlee.
His health started deteriorating in September 2014 and was hospitalized due to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He breathed his last on October 21, 2014, at his home in Washington DC, aged 93.
His funeral was held on October 29 at Washington National Cathedral and was rested at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington D.C.
In 1976, the Watergate episode was replicated in the Oscar-winning film ‘All the President’s Men’, where Jason Robards played Bradlee.
Jeff Himmelman, an ex-reporter at The Post, penned his biography ‘Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee’, describing his personal life, exclusive interviews, relationships with colleagues and his 45-year influential career.
He was born into the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Boston family, with its ancestry tracing back to the Massachusetts colonists of 1600s.
Two incidents in 1963 transformed his life altogether – Philip Graham’s suicide after a long battle with bipolar disorder in August and Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in November.
He confessed his love for Mrs. Graham on her funeral in July 2001, though it never graduated to a second level.