Ben Bradlee was Boston born and went to Harvard, roots that served him well in Washington when a relative of his first wife moved down the block in Washington. Ben Bradlee and then Congressman John F. Kennedy became fast friends just as Bradlee’s journalism career was getting started.
By 1968, Bradlee was executive editor of the Washington Post, and then came the Pentagon Papers. He and then-publisher Katherine Graham famously celebrated as the Supreme Court ruled they had the right to publish. That was a precursor to Watergate.
Watergate not only brought the Washington Post to the big table – they took the head seat – Bradlee and two intrepid reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein became household names. Watergate transformed journalism and the country; the unlikely story of a small time burglary taking down the presidency is now a film classic with Jason Robards playing Bradlee.
Ben Bradlee was tough, ornery and foul-mouthed, but a man so charismatic it’s been said women wanted to be with him, and men wanted to be him. Married to Washington socialite and onetime style section reporter Sally Quinn, Bradlee made that section a must-read.
Bradlee will be memorialized this coming week at a service at Washington’s national Cathedral.