Ben Bradlee, the charismatic, gravelly voiced editor who oversaw The Washington Post's coverage of the Watergate scandal, which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, died Tuesday at age 93, The Post reported Tuesday night.
Bradlee assumed leadership of The Post newsroom as managing editor in 1965, becoming executive editor in 1968. Over his 26 years in charge, he doubled the newspaper's staff and circulation, growing what had been a slow-moving regional newspaper into a national agenda setter. The Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex was chronicled in the movie "All the President's Men," making Bradlee — portrayed by Jason Robards Jr. — the most famous editor in American journalism.
The paper won more than four times as many Pulitzers, 17, during his tenure than it had in the previous 48 years since the prizes began. Along with The New York Times, Bradlee and his longtime publisher, Katharine Graham, also fought the U.S. government over publication of the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, winning a landmark Supreme Court decision that the federal government faced an almost insurmountable burden of proof to justify prior restraint of the press in 1971. Just 10 years later, however, The Post had to return a Pulitzer after it was revealed that a reporter had fabricated "Jimmy's World," a riveting account of an 8-year-old heroin addict who turned out not to exist. Bradlee, who was found not to have fully vetted the story in a report from the paper's own ombudsman, personally apologized to Washington Mayor Marion Barry.
Bradlee, a personal friend of President John F. Kennedy's, was a star of the gossip columns for decades — no more so than when he married Post staff writer Sally Quinn in 1978. She survives him, as do four children, 10 grandchildren and a great-grandchild, The Post said.
— M. Alex Johnson