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John Bertram Oakes ’34

Published in July 4, 2001, issue

John, who as editor of the editorial page of the NY Times from 1961-76 held one of the most prestigious positions in journalism, died Apr. 5, 2001, following a stroke two weeks earlier. He would have received his second George Polk journalism award on Apr. 18 and celebrated his 88th birthday on Apr. 23.

John wrote that professionally his "greatest satisfaction" came from his work as "reporter, editor, writer, commentator on domestic and foreign political affairs, and also as something of a pioneer in environmental journalism." He originated the Times op-ed page in 1970 and championed gun control, civil and constitutional rights, financing for the arts and humanities, and American withdrawal from the Vietnam war.

John was our valedictorian, a Rhodes scholar, and voted "most brilliant" and "most likely to succeed." When a classmate congratulated him on being named editorial page editor of the Times, he quipped that it was the same job he'd held nearly 30 years before on another paper, the Daily Princetonian. In 1970 he was awarded Princeton's Woodrow Wilson prize for having "devoted his life to conveying honest news and discerning editorials to his fellow citizens."

Surviving are John's wife of 56 years, Margery Hartman Oakes, three daughters, Andra, Alison, and Cynthia '78, a son, George '83, and seven grandchildren. To them we offer our sincere sympathies.

The Class of 1934

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