19 Facts About Alden Whitman


Alden Rogers Whitman was an American journalist who served as chief obituary writer for The New York Times from 1964 to 1976.


Alden Whitman was born in 1913 on his father's farm in New Albany, Nova Scotia.


Alden Whitman showed early interest in journalism, contributing to the local Bridgeport Post-Telegram at 15.


Alden Whitman began his Harvard studies in 1930 as a member of the Socialist Club and Party, then edged leftward to the communist-led National Student League.


In 1938, Alden Whitman left his estranged wife and two young children in Bridgeport and followed his future wife to New York City.


Decades later, in his obituary for former US Communist Party leader Earl Browder, Alden Whitman looked back at the period he himself was most active in the party:.


Alden Whitman continued at the Tribune until 1951, when he took his copy editing talents to its chief competitor, The New York Times.


Under public questioning in the Senate, Alden Whitman acknowledged prior Communist affiliation but denied any seditious intent and refused, based on the First Amendment and an "extremely active New England conscience," to name any colleagues as party members.


The Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1962 on narrow technical grounds, and Alden Whitman was re-indicted and re-convicted by the Department of Justice under Robert Kennedy.


Alden Whitman remained at the Times, albeit with few bylines, throughout the McCarthyist ordeal.


Colleague David Halberstam suggested Alden Whitman was effectively "blacklisted" and, like "a plant trying to grow through concrete," had to find a neglected gap in the newsroom in order to write freely.


Alden Whitman replaced the traditional litany of names and dates with biographical essays that conveyed the "flavor" of a person, engaged their specific, sometimes "abstruse," expertise, and placed them in the sweep of history.


Alden Whitman was the first journalist to write about Donald Trump and put the future president's words in print.


In 1973, Alden Whitman interviewed the 26-year-old Donald alongside his 67-year-old father, Fred, to prepare for the latter's death.


Alden Whitman served as special advisor to the Columbia University Center for Oral History Research and wrote book reviews to promote oral histories and oral autobiographies, especially those that gave voice to the illiterate, oppressed or ignored.


Alden Whitman retired from the Times in 1976, though remaining advance obituaries would appear over the following few years.


Alden Whitman's final published review, of Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Empire, afforded yet another contemplation of Marx and capitalism.


Alden Whitman died from another stroke at a hospital in Monaco on September 4,1990, aged 76.


Alden Whitman had traveled the country to attend birthday celebrations for food critic Craig Claiborne, who had turned 70 that day.