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Joseph Alsop

Joseph Wright Alsop V ([url=]October 11
, 1910August 28, 1989) was an American journalist and syndicated newspaper columnist from the 1930s through the 1970s.


Reporter and columnist

Alsop was born into a socially prominent family in Avon, Connecticut; the son of Joseph Wright Alsop IV (1876-1953) and his wife Corinne Douglas Robinson (1886-1971). His mother was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, as her mother (Joseph's grandmother), Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, was Roosevelt's sister. Thus, Joseph and his brother Stewart were the great-nephews of Theodore Roosevelt. His mother was also related to President James Monroe.
Alsop was educated at Groton (class of 1928) and Harvard (class of 1932). After graduating from Harvard, Alsop became a reporter, then an unusual career for someone with an Ivy League education. He began his career with the New York Herald Tribune, which after three years sent him to Washington, D.C. to cover the Senate.
Because of his family ties to the Roosevelts, Alsop soon became well-connected in Franklin Roosevelt's Washington. By 1936 the Saturday Evening Post had awarded him a contract to write about politics with fellow journalist Turner Catledge. Two years later, the North American News Alliance contracted Alsop and Robert E. Kintner to write a nationally-syndicated column on a daily basis. In 1940, the two moved from the NANA to the New York Herald Tribune.
The following year, after it had become clear that the United States would soon enter World War II, Alsop and Kintner suspended their column and volunteered for the armed forces. Alsop entered the Navy and used his political connections to be assigned to Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group, later famous as the Flying Tigers, while the group was training at Toungoo, Burma. While on a supply mission for Chennault in December 1941, Alsop was interned at Hong Kong by the Japanese. Repatriated on the neutral liner Gripsholm, he rejoined Chennault in Kunming, China and served with him for the rest of the war.
After the war, Alsop resumed writing his column, this time working with his brother Stewart Alsop on a thrice-weekly piece called "Matter of Fact". The use of the word "fact" was not accidental; Alsop's memoir makes clear that he prided himself on producing a column which was based on facts, on solid reporting, rather than simply on the settled opinions of the columnist.
While his brother remained headquartered in Washington to cover domestic politics, Joseph traveled the world, covering foreign affairs. As for their political inclinations, the Alsops once described themselves as "Republicans by inheritance and registration, and ... conservatives by political conviction."[1] Their partnership lasted from 1945 to 1958, when Joseph took over sole possession of "Matter of Fact", writing it until his retirement in 1974.

Politics and personal life

Despite his identity as a conservative and a Republican, 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, a fact that subsequently led to bitter breaks with many of his liberal friends and a decline in the influence of his column as well.
Alsop kept his homosexuality private,[2] though in the 1950s the KGB photographed him in a hotel room in Moscow with another man and later disseminated the photographs to contacts in the United States.[1]
He was married from 1960 to 1972 to Susan Mary Patten (née Jay), the widow of William Patten, an American diplomat who was one of Alsop's friends. By this marriage he had two stepchildren, William and Anne.
Joseph Alsop was at work on a memoir when he died. His collaborator, Adam Platt, helped Alsop create I've Seen the Best of It — a vivid and richly informative tale, which sheds light on the character and action of many public figures, John Kennedy among them.


  • The 168 Days (1938) [with Turner Catledge]
  • Men Around the President (1939) [with Robert Kintner]
  • American White Paper: The Story of American Diplomacy and the Second World War (1940) [with Robert Kintner]
  • We Accuse! The Story of the Miscarriage of American Justice in the Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1954) [with Stewart Alsop]
  • The Reporter's Trade (1958) [with Stewart Alsop]
  • From the Silent Earth: A Report on the Greek Bronze Age (1964)
  • FDR, 1882-1945: A Centenary Remembrance (1982)
  • The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared (1982)
  • "I've Seen the Best of It": Memoirs (1992) [with Adam Platt]


  1. ^ Alsop, Joseph and Stewart Alsop. The Reporter's Trade. New York: Reynal & Company, 1958. Foreword.
  2. ^ Merry, Robert W. Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop – Guardians of the American Century. New York: Viking, 1996. 360-365.