Arthur O. Sulzberger, Former N.Y. Times Publisher, Dead at 86

The New York Times won 31 Pulitzer Prizes and published the Pentagon Papers during the time Arthur Ochs Sulzberger served as publisher

Former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who led the newspaper to new levels of influence in his three-decade tenure, died Saturday.

He was 86.

Sulzberger, father of current Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., died at his home in Southampton, N.Y., after a long illness, his family told the newspaper.

Getty ImagesThe New York Times was awarded 31 Pulitzer prizes under his leadership. it also published the Pentagon Papers, which detailed th secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and won a libel case victory in New York Times v. Sullivan that established important First Amendment protections for the press.

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The Times' weekday circulation climbed from 714,000 when Sulzberger became publisher in 1963 to 1.1 million upon his retirement as publisher in 1992. During that time annual revenues of the Times' corporate parent rose from $100 million to $1.7 billion.

Sulzberger also worked to attract new readers adding separate sections on business and metropolitan news as well as feature sections on a variety of topics to what had been a staid, even stuffy publication. 

Sulzberger went by the nickname "Punch" and served with the Marine Corps in World War II and Korea before joining the Times staff as a reporter,

"Punch, the old Marine captain who never backed down from a fight, was an absolutely fierce defender of the freedom of the press," his son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., said in a statement. He said his father's refusal to back down in the paper's free-speech battles "helped to expand access to critical information and to prevent government censorship and intimidation."