Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee died in his Washington home of natural causes on Oct. 21. The war veteran and pioneering journalist was responsible for changing the face of investigative journalism with his relentless approach in uncovering the Watergate scandal.
Born Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee on August 26, 1921 in Boston, Mass., Bradlee joined the Navy ROTC at Harvard University and was a commissioned officer shortly after graduating in 1942. Bradlee was a communications officer but fought in several key naval battles during his time in the service, which was during the heights of World War II.
Bradlee became a reporter in his civilian life, working for the Washington Post. It was in the 1950s that Bradlee became close to then-Senator and future John F. Kennedy, a fellow Harvard graduate. Bradlee was the Washington bureau chief of Newsweek and helped negotiate the sale of the magazine to the Post’s parent company. He was promoted to the executive editor position in 1968, remaining in that position until his retirement in 1991. Bradlee served as the paper’s vice president-at large thereafter.
Bradlee’s two crowning moments was when he challenged the federal government over publishing the controversial Pentagon Papers, and overseeing the unveiling of the Watergate scandal. The Pentagon Papers revealed that President Lyndon B. Johnson lied to Congress and the American public about the scope and focus of the failed Vietnam War. The paper’s reporting on Watergate Scandal, which sank the presidency of Richard Nixon, led to the only resignation of a United States president in history.
Bradlee helped turn the Post into an internationally recognized and award-winning publication. Before his tenure as editor, the paper won just four Pulitzer Prizes. Under Bradlee’s leadership, 17 Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.
Bradlee, by almost all accounts said to be a larger than life character, was portrayed in what colleagues called an understated performance by Jason Robards in the 1976 film based on Watergate, All The President’s Men. Robards won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role.
Bradlee is survived by wife and Post journalist Sally Quinn, and their son, Quinn. He was 93.
Photo: Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0
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