Safire, William, 1929-2009

Alternative names
Birth 1929-12-17
Death 2009-09-27

Biographical notes:

Author, journalist, speechwriter, and public relations consultant. Also known as William L. Safire.

From the description of William Safire papers, 1953-1980 (bulk 1960-1973). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70983130

Biographical Note

  • 1929, Dec. 17: Born, New York, N.Y.
  • 1947 - 1949 : Student, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • 1949: Assistant to Tex McCrary, "Tex and Jinx" radio show
  • 1949 - 1951 : Reporter, New York Herald-Tribune syndicate
  • 1951: Correspondent, WNBC-WNBT, Europe and Middle East
  • 1952 - 1954 : Served in the U.S. army
  • 1954 - 1955 : Radio-television producer, WNBC, New York, N.Y.
  • 1955 - 1960 : Vice president, Tex McCrary, Inc., a public relations firm
  • 1961 - 1968 : Established Safire Public Relations, Inc.
  • 1961: Communications manager, Louis Lefkowitz mayoral election campaign, New York, N.Y.
  • 1962: Deputy campaign manager, Jacob Javits senatorial election campaign, New York Married Helene Belmar Julius
  • 1963: Published The Relations Explosion, A Diagram of the Coming Boom and Shakeout in Corporate Relations (New York: Macmillan. 249 pp.)
  • 1964: Staff member, Nelson Rockefeller for president campaign Published Plunging into Politics: How to Become or Support a Candidate on the National, State, or Local Level (New York: D. McKay Co. 209 pp.)
  • 1965: Volunteer, John Lindsay mayoral election campaign, New York, N.Y.
  • 1966: Director of public relations, Nelson Rockefeller gubernatorial election campaign, New York
  • 1967 - 1968 : Advisor and speechwriter, Richard M. Nixon presidential election campaign
  • 1968 - 1973 : Appointed special assistant by President Richard M. Nixon working primarily as speechwriter and media consultant
  • 1968: Published New Language of Politics (New York: Random House. 782 pp.); revised and enlarged edition, 1972; 1978 ( Safire's Political Dictionary); 1993 ( Safire's New Political Dictionary)
  • 1973 - : Columnist, New York Times
  • 1975: Published Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House (New York: Doubleday & Co. 704 pp.)
  • 1977: Published Full Disclosure: A Novel (Franklin Center, Penn., privately printed limited edition by Franklin Library. 535 pp.; and Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. 525 pp.) Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary
  • 1980: Published On Language (New York: Times Books. 331 pp.) Published Safire's Washington (New York: Times Books. 534 pp.)
  • 1982: Published What's the Good Word? (New York: Times Books. 400 pp.) Published Good Advice: More than 2,000 Apt Quotations to Help You Live Your Life, compiled and edited with Leonard Safir (New York: Times Books. 400 pp.)
  • 1986: Published Take My Word For It: More On Language (New York: Times Books. 357 pp.)
  • 1987: Published Freedom, a novel (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. 1125 pp.)
  • 1988: Published You Could Look It Up: More On Language (New York: Times Books. 357 pp.)
  • 1989: Published Words of Wisdom: More Good Advice, compiled and edited with Leonard Safir (New York: Simon & Schuster. 432 pp.)
  • 1990: Published Language Maven Strikes Again (New York: Doubleday. 447 pp.) Published Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage (New York: Doubleday. 153 pp.)
  • 1991: Published Coming to Terms (New York: Doubleday. 402 pp.)
  • 1992: Published The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics (New York: Times Books. 304 pp.) Published Good Advice on Writing, compiled and edited with Leonard Safir (New York: Simon & Schuster. 288 pp.) Published Leadership, compiled and edited with Leonard Safir (New York: Simon & Schuster. 258 pp.) Published Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, selected and introduced by Safire (New York: W. W. Norton. 957 pp.; revised and enlarged, 1997)
  • 1993: Published Quoth the Maven (New York: Random House. 350 pp.)
  • 1994: Published In Love with Norma Loquendi (New York: Random House. 349 pp.)
  • 1995: Published Sleeper Spy, a novel (New York: Random House. 451 pp.)
  • 2009, Sept. 27: Died, Rockville, Md.

From the guide to the William Safire Papers, 1953-1980, (bulk 1960-1973), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

William Lewis Safire (1929-2009) was an American author, columnist, lexicographer, novelist, public relations executive, reporter, and White House speechwriter. Safire was born on December 17, 1929, in New York, NY, to thread merchant Oliver C. and his wife Ida Panish Safir. (He later added the "e" to his name to help with pronunciation). He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, a specialized high school known for its focus on mathematics and science, and enrolled at Syracuse University in 1947. Safire dropped out in 1949 after his sophomore year and his older brother Leonard, a copy boy for columnist and public relations man Tex McCrary, encouraged his younger brother to apply for a job at the New York Herald Tribune . He was hired as a researcher and writer for the paper's "Close-Up" column which gave him the opportunity to interview celebrities such as Mae West.

He continued working in public relations as a correspondence in Europe and the Middle East for radio station WNBC and WNBT-TV as well as for the Army in 1952-1954. He returned to work with McCrary on the Tex and Jinx radio and television shows and later as vice-president of Tex McCrary, Inc., a public relations firm where he arranged the "kitchen debate" in Moscow between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev in 1959.

In 1961, he established his own firm, Safire Public Relations, where his clients included an ice cream manufacturer, a laxative company, and various political campaigns. He sold his company in 1968 for $335,000 and joined the White House staff where he served as an advisor, special assistant, speechwriter, and media consultant to Richard Nixon.

He left his post at the White House in 1973 to join the staff at the New York Times . He was hired on the spot by publisher Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger, Sr. as the paper's new political columnist. Safire's twice-weekly "Essay" column appeared on the Op-Ed page for thirty-two years and presented a libertarian conservative point of view. He earned the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 1978 for his column on the alleged budgetary infractions of Bert Lance. He later served on the Pulitzer Prize board from 1995-2004.

His Sunday column, "On Language" (1979-2009) appeared in the New York Times Magazine and featured commentary on grammar, usage and etymology. The column attracted many fans and devoted correspondents, dubbed the Lexicographic Irregulars.

In 2000, he was hired as chairman and chief executive officer of the Charles A. Dana Foundation, a philanthropic organization supporting brain science, immunology, and arts education. He also served on the Syracuse University Board of Trustees. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

He authored many books including Safire's New Political Dictionary, a study of the words that have inspired and inflamed the electorate; Freedom, about the Civil War; and Scandalmonger, about the origins of America's press freedom. His anthology of the world's greatest speeches, Lend Me Your Ears, has become a classic. He frequently contributed to periodicals and newspapers including Cosmopolitan, New York Times Book Review, and Playboy .

Safire married Helene Belmar Julius in 1962. The couple had two children, Mark Lindsey and Annabel Victoria.

William Safire died on September 27, 2009 in Rockville, Maryland.

From the guide to the William Safire Papers, 1949-2009, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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  • English language--Grammar
  • Presidents--Staff--1969-1974
  • English language--Foreign elements
  • English language--Style
  • Mayors--Election
  • Journalism
  • Privacy
  • English language--Usage
  • Presidents--United States--Election--1964
  • English language--Etymology
  • Presidents--Elections--1968
  • Presidents--United States--Election--1968
  • Gambling
  • Lexicography
  • English language--Errors of usage
  • Syracuse University
  • Speechwriting
  • Freedom of information
  • Linguistics
  • Presidents--United States--Election--1960
  • Elections--1962
  • Mayors--New York (State)--New York--Election
  • Presidents--Election--1964
  • Governors--New York (State)--Election--1966
  • Journalists--United States
  • Presidents--United States--Staff--1969-1974
  • Presidents--Election--1960
  • Elections--New York (State)--1962
  • United Nations
  • Governors--Election--1966
  • Colloquial language


  • Public relations consultants
  • Speechwriters
  • Novelists
  • Authors
  • Journalists


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  • Israel. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Singapore. (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • New York (State) (as recorded)
  • China. (as recorded)
  • United States--Politics and government (as recorded)