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Ofield Dukes

Public relations guru Ofield Dukes was born in Rutledge, Alabama, on August 8, 1932. After serving in the Army from 1952 to 1954, Dukes went on to Wayne State University in Detroit and graduated in 1958 with a degree in journalism.

After graduating, Dukes spent several years working at WCHB radio as the news director. In 1961, unable to get a job with any of the white-owned newspapers, Dukes went to work on The Michigan Chronicle. He found himself writing virtually all the articles, from editorials to politics, front-page news and music reviews. In 1964, Dukes won three awards for his writing from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of black-owned newspapers. Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him deputy director of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress. The following year, he became the deputy director of public affairs for the White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights, where he stayed until 1969. In addition to this, he was appointed to Vice President Hubert Humphrey's staff in 1966 as an assistant. Following Johnson's decision not to seek reelection in 1968 and Humphrey's loss in his bid for the White House, Dukes became disillusioned. In 1969, he established Ofield Dukes & Associates, a Washington-based public relations firm, with Motown Records as his first client. Today, they serve Sony Music Entertainment, RJR Nabisco and the Congressional Black Caucus, among others.

Between 1972 and 1983, Dukes served as an adjunct professor of public relations at Howard University, and since 1993 he has served in the School of Communications at the American University in the same capacity. He has been a communications consultant for every Democratic presidential campaign since 1972 and helped organize the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner. He is also the founder of the Black Public Relations Society of Washington.

Dukes has won numerous awards over the years, including a Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America in 1974 and a Gold Anvil in 2001. He has also been inducted into the Washington, D.C. Public Relations Society Hall of Fame.

Ofield Dukes passed away on December 7, 2011.

Accession Number

A2003.112

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/31/2003

Last Name

Dukes

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Sidney D. Miller Middle School

Wayne State University

First Name

Ofield

Birth City, State, Country

Rutledge

HM ID

DUK02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

The First Law of Life Is Knowing Thyself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/8/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak

Death Date

12/7/2011

Short Description

Public relations chief executive and political consultant Ofield Dukes (1932 - 2011 ) founded the Ofield Dukes & Associates public relations firm in Washington D.C., and served on the White House staff during the Johnson administration. Dukes was also a communications consultant for every Democratic presidential campaign since 1972.

Employment

WCHB Radio

Michigan Chronicle

Presidents' Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity

White House Conference on Civil Rights

Ofield Dukes & Associates

Howard University

American University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ofield Dukes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes growing up in Rutledge, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes growing up with four sisters

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes talks about his childhood personality and the teachings of his Baptist church

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes his family's move to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes describes his childhood community in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes his elementary school teacher, Mrs. Barrow, sister of Joe Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes talks about his paper route

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes the role of radio soap operas during his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes how his paper route allowed him to develop a sense of self-reliance

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes the coach of the Miller High School football and basketball teams

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes talks about the Miller High School basketball team

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes how he became a cub reporter for the Detroit edition of the "Pittsburgh Courier"

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes how he became "a lover" in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes describes his first heartbreak and failing the entrance exam for Wayne State University

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ofield Dukes describes being drafted to serve in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes his experiences serving in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes describes his experiences attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes being hired as the news director of WCHB-AM radio in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his experiences working as assistant editor for the "Michigan Chronicle"

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes comments on the significance of the "Michigan Chronicle" to Detroit's black community

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes talks about serving as president of the young adult division of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes how he met the Gordy family

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes talks about black life and culture in Detroit, Michigan during the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes talks about being an usher at Detroit's Paradise Theater, and Paradise Valley

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes talks about the Idlewild, Michigan resort town

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes his appointment as Deputy Director of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his responsibilities as Deputy Director of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes how President Lyndon B. Johnson brought African American leaders together

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes being hired to work for Vice President Hubert Humphrey

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes how Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara started an affirmative action program for the U.S. Armed Forces

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes how President Lyndon B. Johnson gained support for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes talks about the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ofield Dukes describes President Lyndon B. Johnson's final meeting with black newspaper editors in 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes President Lyndon B. Johnson's final meeting with black newspaper editors in 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes talks about President Lyndon B. Johnson's commitment to civil rights

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes talks about Vice President Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes starting his own public relations firm, Ofield Dukes & Associates

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes talks about having Motown as his first client at Ofield Dukes & Associates

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes his health issues caused by stress and lack of exercise

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's inauguration, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's inauguration, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes subletting his office to Alex Haley, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes describes subletting his office to Alex Haley, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes how Alex Haley overcame depression

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes how he became a member of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes his work as a theatrical press agent for the Washington, D.C. production of "Bubbling Brown Sugar"

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes representing boxing promoter Don King

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for the Washington Bullets after they won the 1978 NBA Finals, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for the Washington Bullets after they won the 1978 NBA Finals, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes organizing the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner in 1972

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes describes representing Coretta Scott King during her visit to South Africa to speak out against apartheid, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes representing Coretta Scott King during her visit to South Africa to speak out against apartheid, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his role in facilitating Dr. Leon Sullivan's relationship with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and President Lyndon B. Johnson

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes being hired to teach public relations at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes talks about winning the Public Relations Society of America's Golden Anvil Award, and being honored by HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes the evolution of the public relations field

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes responds to a question about good and bad public relations

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes talks about the significance of the public relations field

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes what contributed to his success

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes shares his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Ofield Dukes describes how President Lyndon B. Johnson gained support for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Ofield Dukes talks about having Motown as his first client at Ofield Dukes & Associates
Transcript
And during the debate on Title VII, [President] Lyndon [B.] Johnson had the corporate executives, about seventy of them, to come to the White House for a meeting in the East Room because the debate was hot and heavy. And he needed the corporate support and especially since these executives were pushing voluntarily affirmative action in employment. And so, Willard Wirtz presided and he's very eloquent. And Lyndon Johnson was busy at a security, a national security meeting on the war in Vietnam, and was late in coming. And then Hobart [Taylor, Jr.] spoke. And so, you had all of the, the heavyweights, the CEO's, and Lyndon Johnson finally came. And he was looking sort of beaten down and the war was getting to him. And he started speaking and just said that people are surprised that, as a Southerner, that he's developed such an intense commitment. And he talked about his life as a Southerner, as a poor Southerner, and how he worked with the Hispanics and the Negroes and whatever. And he pointed to Hobart Taylor, Jr., and he says, look, you all know Hobart, and Hobart was smart. The, the corporate executive loved Hobart because he knew much about Wall Street and he played golf, and he was in much a part of their culture as anybody. They just loved him. And Lyndon Johnson said, see, Hobart, his father's [Hobart Taylor, Sr.] a millionaire, successful businessman, and Hobart is working for me at a sacrifice. He could be making several hundred thousand dollars a year out there. But he says, there are a lot of Hobart Taylors out there, and what we want from Title VII is for these Negroes to have the same chance to be taxpayers instead of tax eaters. And he was so convincing that the--these corporate executives said they would become active supporters of Title VII. And that was decisive, but before the bill was passed, there was a senator from West Virginia, who introduced a, an amendment as a subterfuge to kill the bill. And it was amended to prohibit discrimination, not only based on race, but also based on sex. And he thought that this would certainly kill the bill. But Lyndon Johnson is so smart, so he called--had his staff to do a little research and to find out how many women held positions, sub positions in the government. And then, he decided to have a press conference at the National Press Building to make an important announcement. And he announced a series of appointments of women to key positions and said that this amendment would expand opportunities for women, and it became a positive story. And so, white women became supportive of the bill and it was passed. And I became very much involved with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was set up to administer the bill with Sam Jackson and Arlene Hernandez and et cetera. And the first two class action lawsuits under Title VII were filed by AT&T by white women who were switchboard operators, and by flight attendants for TWA. And they won, and Title VII has been a--create a benefit to white women in a sense than blacks. And Lyndon Johnson was so smart that he, that he was clever enough to, to, to use that ploy to get the bill passed.$And a day or so later, there came a call from Detroit [Michigan] from a lady named Esther Gordy Edwards. And she said, Ofield, I understand you're in the PR [public relations] business. She said, guess what? Motown would like to be your first client, and that was marvelous. And I thought again of what my grandmother said--that the Lord may not come when you want Him, but He's always on time. And then, a couple of weeks later, I got a call from a guy in New York, and I had worked with him because he had been on loan to the Plans for Progress Program as an executive. He's a vice president of Lever Brothers, vice president of PR. He says, hey, Hobart Taylor [Jr.] called me, and said you're in the PR business, and Lever Brothers would like to be your first client. I said, I'm sorry, if you don't mind--if it's not offensive for you to be the second client. And so, that was the beginning and it was exciting having Motown as a client. 'Cause whenever the Supremes or the Four Tops or the Temptations or Stevie Wonder came to Washington or New York, I handled them and learned about the egos of entertainers because when the Supremes came to Washington, and I arranged for them to be interviewed at Channel 9. I learned that one lady desired to have her own car. She didn't want to ride with the others--a sense of privacy, so I made the adjustment there. And on another occasion, Stevie [Wonder] was going to do a big rally in the park. Oh, they had even the White House. Bob Brown and Stan Scott thought it would be a good PR thing to have Mrs. [Pat] Nixon there, and it was at the Washington Monument. So it was at 4:00 and during the summer, and Stevie was coming from Baltimore. And Mrs. Nixon was there at 4:00, about 10 or 15 minutes till 4, and the Secret Service people, and 15,000 predominantly African Americans, you know, and all excited. Stevie was coming and the backup band was there, and it was 4:00. No Stevie--it's 4:15. No Stevie--4:30. And by 4:45, people are getting restless and the Secret Service is--I was there and it was just where is he, where is he? So there was just suspense, the drama. And Mrs. Nixon was nervous, and these people were becoming impatient and threatening, you know, how people are. Brothers (unclear) we're gonna turn this mother out if he doesn't show. And suddenly, Stevie arrived about 10 minutes to 5, casually. And Mrs. Nixon was so excited as if this was saved, you know, what could have been a violent scene that she jumped out of her chair, walked over and greeted him with a big hug. And that was the photo carried around the world, and it was really misinterpreted that this was a warm, friendly greeting of Mrs. Richard Milhous Nixon--such a fondly greeting of Stevie Wonder. But I guess I learned the PR implications of all of that--that it's, in getting with entertainers, there's the unpredictability. And the other thing that I learned is about cash flow, business cash flow. I did all those wonderful things for Motown--all of the excitement, and I just remembered somebody saying, all that glitters is not gold, simply because this was not the age of fax machines, of emails. Of whatever the circumstances, Motown was six or seven months late in paying. And there were days at the Press Building when I looked forward to their check, prayed for their check, simply because I didn't have 50 cents on some days to catch the bus from southwest Washington to the Press Building. So I, I walked, and my part-time secretary was very understanding and, you know, it wasn't anything that she needed. But I learned about cash flow. But I also learned the art of perseverance.