Bradlee archive donated to Ransom Center

The archive of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee now resides at UT’s Ransom Center.

Bradlee, who died in 2014, placed his papers at the Ransom Center in 2012, pledging to donate them upon his death.

Katharine Graham, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Howard Simons and Ben Bradlee discussing stories in Bradlee's office. © Mark Godfrey.
Katharine Graham, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Howard Simons and Ben Bradlee discussing stories in Bradlee’s office. © Mark Godfrey.

“Ben often quoted Philip Graham, husband of Katharine Graham and a former publisher of The Washington Post, saying that ‘journalism is the first rough draft of history,’ ” said Sally Quinn, Bradlee’s wife. “This is why he wanted his papers to go to the Ransom Center along with those of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Historians can now take these rough drafts and enlarge the record for posterity. I am thrilled that they are now residing in the perfect place for that to happen.”

The archive contains Bradlee’s professional correspondence with journalists, elected officials, cultural figures and corporate executives; internal memoranda documenting the workings of the Post; newsroom files and calendars; files from Bradlee’s Newsweek tenure from 1957 to 1965; materials relating to his books “Conversations with Kennedy” (1975) and “A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures” (1995); desk diaries and personal items.

In a press release, the Ransom Center said: “The archive includes extensive original incoming correspondence along with carbons or photocopies of Bradlee’s outgoing letters, many documenting high points of American journalism and some of the 20th century’s most prominent news stories.”

The archive includes a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy, who wrote after her husband’s assassination in 1963: “I consider that my life is over and I will spend the rest of it waiting for it really to be over.” In response to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, author Lillian Hellman wrote, “I guess it’s time for me to say you have become my hero. And I ain’t had many.” Presidents of the United States also corresponded with Bradlee, including Jimmy Carter, who separately noted the publication of a February 1977 story about the CIA as “irresponsible” while a March 1977 editorial on the Middle East was “completely responsible.”

Significant material relating to the Watergate scandal is in the archive, ranging from staff memoranda tracing the newspaper’s response to events to versions of Bradlee’s affidavit regarding confidentiality of sources.

The archive will reside alongside and complement the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate papers.

In 2013 the Ben Bradlee Fellowship in Journalism endowment was created to support scholarly research in journalism and related collections at the Ransom Center.

Author: Charles Ealy

Charles Ealy edits and writes about books and movies for the Ausstin American-Statesman.

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