Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Meet the Players: Joseph Alsop

Joseph Alsop
Joseph Wright Alsop was born October 11, 1910 in Avon Connecticut to Joseph Wright Alsop IV and his wife Corinne Douglas Robinson. Corinne was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the cousin of Eleanor Roosevelt, and was also distantly related to President James Monroe. Both of his parents were very active in Republican politics - his father made several unsuccessful runs for the governorship of Connecticut and his mother founded the Connecticut League of Republican Women. Both served in the Connecticut General Assembly. 

Joseph attended the prestigious Groton School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts, then graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1932 and became a staff writer for the New York Herald Tribune. This was a rather unusual move for a man with his pedigree and education. In a short time he established a substantial reputation as a journalist, particularly by his comprehensive coverage of the Bruno Hauptmann trial, the man tried for the abduction and murder of the baby of Charles Lindberg, in 1934

In 1937 he began collaborating with Robert Kintner on the column “The Capital Parade,” a daily nationally syndicated column, for the North American Newspaper Alliance. His first book, The 168 Days, was published in 1938 and covered Roosevelt's unsuccessful campaign to enlarge the Supreme Court and became a bestseller.

He stopped writing to join the U.S. Navy in 1940, and during World War II he served with the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, as an aide to General Claire L. Chennault and was briefly held prisoner by the Japanese in Hong Kong.

After the war, Alsop resumed his journalism career, now working with his brother, Stewart. Both self-styled New Deal liberals they produced a column called "Matter of Fact" for the Herald Tribune. The use of the word "fact" reflected Alsop's pride in producing a column based on reporting, rather than opinion pieces like those of many columnists. While his brother Stewart remained headquartered in Washington to cover domestic politics, Joseph traveled the world, covering foreign affairs. Their partnership lasted from 1945 until 1958, when Joseph became the sole author of "Matter of Fact" until his retirement in 1974. “Matter of Fact” was one of the longest-running columns of its kind, appearing in around 300 newspapers, three times a week. 

The Alsops once described themselves as "Republicans by inheritance and registration, and...conservatives by political conviction."Despite his identity as a conservative Republican, however, Alsop was an early supporter of the presidential ambitions of Democrat John F. Kennedy and became a close friend and influential adviser to Kennedy after his election in November 1960. Alsop was a vocal supporter of America's involvement in Vietnam, which led to bitter breaks with many of his liberal friends and a decline in the influence of his column.

Joseph Alsop was at work on a memoir when he died at his home in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., at the age of 78 on August 28, 1989. Patricia Alsop, Stewart's widow, publicly stated that the cause of death was severe anemia, lung cancer, and emphysema, all of which he'd been fighting for more than a year. The memoir was published posthumously as I've Seen the Best of It.

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