Speed Reads


Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post editor who led Watergate coverage, dies at 93

Benjamin C. Bradlee, the venerable Washington Post editor who guided the newspaper's rise to prominence during his 26 year career, died Tuesday at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 93.

Bradlee took over the newsroom in 1965, and while he served as the managing editor and executive editor, circulation nearly doubled, as did the newsroom staff, the Post reports. Bradlee opened bureaus around the country, stationed correspondents around the world, created the paper's ombudsman position, and started the Style section.

Along with publisher Katharine Graham, Bradlee decided to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers; the Nixon Administration tried to stop the articles, saying they could undermine national security, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that both the Post and The New York Times could publish them. Bradlee was also at the helm when the paper broke the Watergate scandal; Jason Robards portrayed him in All the President's Men, the 1976 film based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's account of their reporting.

Under his leadership, the Post won 17 Pulitzers, including Public Service for its Watergate coverage. "Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor," said Donald E. Graham, who succeeded his mother as publisher of The Post.

Bradlee was born in Boston on August 26, 1921. He contracted polio at the age of 14, but overcame his paralysis and learned how to walk again. He graduated from Harvard, and then immediately went to serve in the Naval Reserve, spending three years in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he founded The New Hampshire Sunday News with a friend, and had a stint at Newsweek, before settling in at the Post.

Bradlee's last day in the Post newsroom was July 31, 1991. During retirement, he raised millions of dollars for the Children's National Medical Center, endowed the Bradlee Professorship of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Survivors include his wife, Sally Quinn; four children; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.