Celebrating the life of PRWeek Hall of Famer Ofield Dukes

In his memoir, Ofield describes first-hand his experiences in politics, civil rights, and parenting.

Rochelle Ford
Rochelle Ford

Every year since 1991, I would receive a holiday card from my mentor, Ofield Dukes. Instead of highlighting his agency’s awards—the Silver Anvil for Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor—or his high-profile clients such as Don King and Coretta Scott King— or his fellow Washington insiders like Dorothy Height and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Ofield would talk about the joy of watching his little girl, Roxi, grow up. The day she was born, he would say, was "mountaintop experience" of his life.

Before he died in 2011, Ofield told Roxi and Rev. Dr. Unnia Pettus that he wanted me to edit and release the memoir that he had been writing since 1997. That was the year I wrote a biography of his remarkable life. It gave me the foundation for the book, I would later edit with Dr. Pettus, "Ofield: The Autobiography of Public Relations Man Ofield Dukes."

Right after the book’s publication this fall, Mike Fernandez, U.S. CEO of Burson-Marsteller, decided to nominate it for an NAACP Award. For Mike, this was a very special honor. When he was a young press secretary on Capitol Hill, Mike and Ofield had worked together to create a national holiday to honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In a review published in the Arthur W. Page Society PageTurner Blog, Roger Bolton wrote: "This is an important book. It’s the remarkable first-person story of a self-made man who grew up in the ghetto in Detroit to become a major player in many of the significant political and social change events of the 20th Century. No one taught him how to be a public relations man, but he figured it out himself through intuition, guts, determination, and a great instinct for what it takes to earn public trust."

Before Ofield entered public relations, he worked as a journalist for black-owned broadcast and print media, including the Detroit Chronicle. When he opened his PR firm, one of his first clients was the National Newspaper Publishers Association, for whom he organized an annual event to honor black-owned media.

Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer and former president of NNPA, noted that Ofield "aptly unfolds the details of a legacy for every professional to model. He has weaved a tale in words that continue to connect us to those movers and shakers he helped, and who likewise through his association and service to them, helped him to earn the Public Relations Society of America’s highest award, the Gold Anvil. And, at the end, he unselfishly bestows a list of life lessons and principles of success that will have a lasting impression on future public relations professionals and others, to come."

When he won the Gold Anvil, Ofield said this was his life’s second "mountaintop experience." It was presented to celebrate his years of service to the profession, such as developing and teaching Howard University’s first PR course, establishing the Washington, DC, chapter of the Black Public Relations Society, and reinvigorating the PRSA national diversity committee.

"This book is a must read for aspiring public relations practitioners. It should be required reading for all undergraduate and graduate communications programs across the country. Why? Because Ofield details how he used public relations and effective communications to solve myriad problems over the past 50 years. With an impressive client list, one would be surprised at how much influence he has had on 20th century politics and business," said Debra Miller, former president and CEO of the PRSA.

In his memoir, Ofield describes first-hand his experiences in politics, civil rights, and parenting. He takes the reader back to the 1960s, when he worked on behalf of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations for equal employment rights. Perhaps most significant, however, Ofield brings you into his personal life, and offers life lessons on marriage and parenting and talks about the ultimate joy: becoming a grandparent.

In keeping with his wishes, proceeds of the sale from this autobiography will support the Ofield Dukes Scholarship Fund at Howard University. For more information about the book, visit https://www.rochelleford.com/ofield-autobiography or PRMuseumPress.org.

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