Former Washington Post Editor Benjamin Bradlee Dies at 93
Described as a "legendary" editor, the journalism world mourns the death of former Washington Post editor Benjamin Bradlee, who passed away at his home in Washington on Tuesday evening. He was 93. Beginning in 1965, Bradlee spent nearly three decades at the helm of one of the most successful newspapers in the country. During his tenure as managing editor, and later, as executive editor, Bradlee managed to increase the Post's circulation twofold. Described by David Von Drehle, an editor-at-large for Time, as a man who embodied charisma and had an "electric glow," Bradlee's legacy remains a major influence in many of today's leading editors.
Bradlee is perhaps best well-known for spearheading the Post's coverage of Watergate, the political scandal that redefined the way in which the American populace viewed its government. Along with Katharine Graham, who served as the Post’s publisher at the time, the two decided to release stories centered around the Pentagon Papers, which detailed "a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War." Though the Nixon administration attempted to kill the story, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times and the Post and allowed them to move forward with their groundbreaking investigative journalism.
During his time at the Post, Bradlee more than quintupled the number of Pulitzer Prizes won by the paper, one of which was the prestigious Public Service award for their coverage of Watergate. In remembrance of Bradlee, Von Drehle wrote,
What made Bradlee a great newspaperman was that he had exactly the right blend of intelligence and impatience, plus an infectious hunger to be in the know...He also had a restless attention span, so his reporters vied relentlessly to find stories sexy and important enough to catch and hold his interest.
Donald E. Graham, the son of Katharine Graham, who took his mother's place as publisher when she retired, told the Post, "Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor." Even after he left the Post, he remained closely involved with the paper, serving as the "vice president at large."
In 2007, he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French government in recognition of his phenomenal accomplishments, and a few years later, his home country followed suit. In 2013, President Obama awarded Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowing upon the editor the single greatest civilian honor in the nation. Said Obama, "He transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world."