Matthews, Herbert Lionel, 1900-

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1900-01-10
Death 1977-07-30
US
Spanish; Castilian, English

Biographical notes:

American journalist and author.

From the description of Herbert L. Matthews Collection, 1929-1949. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122640587

From the description of Herbert Lionel Matthews papers, 1961-1964. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754867344

Herbert Matthews worked as a journalist for the New York Times for 45 years. Starting as a secretary in the business office, Matthews rose to hold a position on the Times' editorial board from 1949-1967. As a correspondent, he is most noted for his reporting from Spain during the Spanish Civil War and, much later, his editorials on Latin America. His 1957 interview with Fidel Castro was a journalistic coup, and Matthews' articles about Castro did much to shape American opinion about him.

Born in New York City on 10 January 1900, Matthews was raised and educated in that city until the age of 18. Matthews enlisted in the army to fight in the First World War, but arrived in France after hostilities had ceased. Returning to the United States at the conclusion of his tour of duty, Matthews entered Columbia University where he studied Romance languages and medieval history. Matthews intended to pursue a career in book publishing upon graduation in 1922. To that end, he responded to an advertisement for a publisher's secretary, only to find that the publisher was the New York Times.

Matthews worked in the business office of the Times for three years, and at the same time pursued a graduate degree in Romance languages at Columbia. In 1925, Matthews was awarded a Bayard Cutting Taylor Fellowship for one year's study in Europe. On leave from the Times, Matthews spent eight months of his fellowship year in Italy studying Dante at the University of Rome and the remaining four months in Paris attending lectures at the Sorbonne.

Matthews returned to New York and the Times in 1926, and was assigned to the news department as secretary to the acting managing editor, Frederick T. Birchall. From that post, Matthews went on to hold other positions in the news department: reporter with the city desk, rewrite man and ultimately night copy editor--first at the city desk and later at the cable desk. As a copy editor, Matthews worked side by side with the same individuals who would later edit his copy from Spain: Raymond McCaw, Clarence Howell, and Neil McNeil, among others.

Matthews cut his teeth as a war correspondent from 1935-36 while covering the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) war. The Times sent Matthews to cover the Italian side of the hostilities owing to his fluency in the language and his knowledge of Italian culture. The fact that Matthews' reportage often conflicted with that of the British and Ethiopian press led him to be labeled a Fascist.

By September of 1936, Matthews had requested a position as correspondent from Spain where hostilities had already begun. Matthews' reporting from the Loyalist side of the conflict put him in opposition to Franco's Nationalists, who were militarily supported by the Italians. The irony of such a reversal was not lost on Matthews, his editors, or his readers. Matthews was friend and colleague to Ernest Hemingway during the war, and the latter author occasionally sent dispatches to the Times.

Matthews served as Rome correspondent from 1939 to 1945, with a brief interlude in India from July 1942 to July 1943. At the conclusion of World War II, Matthews headed the London bureau of the Times until he joined the Editorial Board in 1949. Matthews penned virtually all of the Times editorials on Latin America from 1949 until his retirement in 1967. Matthews died in Adelaide, Australia, on 30 July 1977.

Matthews' publications include Eyewitness in Abyssinia (Secker, 1937), Two Wars and More to Come (Carrick, 1938), The Fruits of Fascism (Harcourt, 1943), and Fidel Castro (Simon & Schuster, 1969). For additional information on Matthews, the reader should consult Matthews' own Education of a Correspondent (Harcourt, 1946), and A World in Revolution: A Newspaperman's Memoir (Scribner, 1972).

From the guide to the Herbert L. Matthews Collection TXRC99-A6., 1929-1949, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center University of Texas at Austin)

New York City native Herbert Lionel Matthews (1900-1977), sickly as a child and scholarly as a youth, seems an unlikely candidate for a war correspondent, but he spent his entire career covering some of the most troubled regions in the world, and some of the most dangerous events of his time, while reporting for the New York Times.

Matthews served a brief stint with the United States Army Tank Corps in Europe during World War I. Following his military service, Matthews studied languages and history at Columbia University from which he graduated in 1922. In 1931 Matthews married Edith "Nancie" Crosse, a British citizen, with whom he had two children, Eric and Priscilla.

During the first decades of Matthews' forty-five year career with the New York Times he reported on the Abyssinian War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, following these conflicts to North Africa, Spain, Italy and India. After the war, Matthews was chief of the Times' London bureau from 1945 until 1949. Upon returning to New York in 1949, Matthews joined the Times' editorial staff where he remained until his retirement in 1967. Matthews retained his by-line while editor, which allowed him to cover events in Central and South America during the 1950s and 1960s.

When Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, claimed in 1956 that Fidel Casto had been killed by government troops, it was Matthews who broke the story that Fidel Castro was still alive and consolidating his revolutionary efforts in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Matthew's interview with Castro, published in, the New York Times on February 24, 1957 helped, in part, to undermine the Batista regime and revive the struggle of Castro, making him appear as the best hope for democracy and social justice in Cuba: "[Castro] has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the constitution, to hold elections." Matthews subsequently received much criticism for his coverage--which many deemed partisan--of Castro. William F. Buckley, for one, lampooned Matthews and the New York Times by stating that 'Castro got his job through the New York Times'.

Matthews made several trips to Cuba before his final visit in 1972, and spent the last years of his life defending his reporting of the events in Cuba leading up to and following the Cuban Revolution. On Saturday, February 17, 1997, the Cuban government unveiled a marble plaque commemorating the 40th anniversary of the meeting between Castro and Matthews. The plaque was placed on the spot where Matthews met with Castro at his hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains of south-eastern Cuba.

Anthony DePalma's The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times, which was published in 2006 by Public Affairs, illuminates both Matthews the reporter and the controversy surrounding Matthew's coverage of Castro.

From the description of Herbert Lionel Matthews papers, 1909-2002 [Bulk Dates: 1937-1976]. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 458424487

Biographical/Historical Note

American journalist and author.

From the guide to the Herbert Lionel Matthews papers, 1961-1964, (Hoover Institution Archives)

BIOGHIST REQUIRED New York City native Herbert Lionel Matthews (1900-1977), sickly as a child and scholarly as a youth, seems an unlikely candidate for a war correspondent, but he spent his entire career covering some of the most troubled regions in the world, and some of the most dangerous events of his time, while reporting for the New York Times.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Matthews served a brief stint with the United States Army Tank Corps in Europe during World War I. Following his military service, Matthews studied languages and history at Columbia University from which he graduated in 1922. In 1931 Matthews married Edith "Nancie" Crosse, a British citizen, with whom he had two children, Eric and Priscilla.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED During the first decades of Matthews' forty-five year career with the New York Times he reported on the Abyssinian War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, following these conflicts to North Africa, Spain, Italy and India. After the war, Matthews was chief of the Times' London bureau from 1945 until 1949. Upon returning to New York in 1949, Matthews joined the Times' editorial staff where he remained until his retirement in 1967. Matthews retained his by-line while editor, which allowed him to cover events in Central and South America during the 1950s and 1960s

BIOGHIST REQUIRED When Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, claimed in 1956 that Fidel Casto had been killed by government troops, it was Matthews who broke the story that Fidel Castro was still alive and consolidating his revolutionary efforts in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Matthew's interview with Castro, published in, the New York Times on February 24, 1957 helped, in part, to undermine the Batista regime and revive the struggle of Castro, making him appear as the best hope for democracy and social justice in Cuba: "[Castro] has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the constitution, to hold elections." Matthews subsequently received much criticism for his coverage--which many deemed partisan--of Castro. William F. Buckley, for one, lampooned Matthews and the New York Times by stating that 'Castro got his job through the New York Times'.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Matthews made several trips to Cuba before his final visit in 1972, and spent the last years of his life defending his reporting of the events in Cuba leading up to and following the Cuban Revolution. On Saturday, February 17, 1997, the Cuban government unveiled a marble plaque commemorating the 40th anniversary of the meeting between Castro and Matthews. The plaque was placed on the spot where Matthews met with Castro at his hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains of south-eastern Cuba.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Anthony DePalma's The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times, which was published in 2006 by Public Affairs, illuminates both Matthews the reporter and the controversy surrounding Matthew's coverage of Castro.

From the guide to the Herbert Lionel Matthews Papers, 1909-2002, [Bulk Dates: 1937-1976]., (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, )

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Subjects:

  • World War, 1939-1945--Italy
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Reporters and reporting
  • Radio scripts
  • Spain--History--Civil War, 1936-1939--Journalists

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Politicians
  • Statesmen
  • Heads of state
  • Foreign correspondents
  • Journalists
  • Revolutionaries

Places:

  • Cuba History 1959- (as recorded)
  • Cuba (as recorded)
  • Spain (as recorded)
  • Cuba Foreign relations United States. (as recorded)
  • Spain (as recorded)
  • India (as recorded)
  • Cuba (as recorded)
  • United States Foreign relations Cuba. (as recorded)
  • Spain (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Cuba (as recorded)
  • India (as recorded)
  • Italy (as recorded)