Arthur W. Page Society

PR Pioneer and Civil Rights Leader Ofield Dukes Inducted into Page Hall of Fame

NEW YORK – September 27, 2021 — Page, the premiere global professional association for senior corporate communications leaders, has announced that Ofield Dukes, founder and president of Ofield Dukes & Associates, has been elected to its Hall of Fame by the Page Board of Trustees. This distinguished honor recognizes individuals who have made a significant impact on the public relations profession and on the enterprises they have served or counseled. Dukes will be posthumously inducted at the Page Annual Conference held September 26-28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. A prominent public relations executive who represented major civil rights figures and entertainers, Dukes is the first Black PR professional bestowed this honor.

“Ofield Dukes will forever be remembered for his leadership and influence at the highest levels of our society, providing guidance and advocacy during the sea changes that occurred during the civil rights movement and beyond,” said Page Chair Charlene Wheeless. “It’s not lost on me that he is being honored by an organization that would not have welcomed him during the height of his career. This speaks volumes for Page and especially for Mr. Dukes. Very few senior communications leaders and public relations counselors broke as many barriers or advised as many people at such high levels of power. His impact will be felt for ages to come.”

Dr. Rochelle Ford, a mentee of Dukes and co-editor of Dukes’ autobiography, captured his extraordinary accomplishments and contributions to the profession at a difficult time for Black PR professionals. Determined to overcome the racism and discrimination prevalent in mid-20th century America, Dukes became a major player in significant political and social changes of the time. From a young age he demonstrated his passion for excellence as a sportswriter, news director and assistant editor for several newspapers and radio stations in his hometown of Detroit. Dukes’ reporting attracted the attention of a member of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House staff, who convinced him to take a job in Washington, D.C., as deputy director of public affairs for the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. He later became a communications adviser for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, as well as a communications consultant for every Democratic presidential campaign from 1972 until his death in 2011.

As a gatekeeper for Black reporters in the White House, Dukes helped galvanize support for the civil rights movement, alongside contemporaries Dr. Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, John Lewis, Dorothy Height, among others. He became a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a member of the board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and an adviser to Coretta Scott King on her historic visit to South Africa, where she spoke out against apartheid. In 1981, Dukes also planned and executed Stevie Wonder’s march on Washington, which generated the momentum to turn Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday into a national holiday.

In addition to his socio-political contributions, Dukes embodied the integrity of a true public relations professional. Establishing Ofield Dukes & Associates allowed him to take on big-name clients such as Motown Records, Lever Brothers, the U.S. Treasury, and the Washington Bullets (now known as the Washington Wizards). Dukes’ work was frequently recognized on the state and national level, which led to him becoming the first Black man to receive the Golden Anvil Award, the highest honor of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Dukes also became an adjunct professor at Howard University, where he taught the first course in public relations, and later taught at The American University. While he continued to produce groundbreaking work through his firm, Dukes guided hundreds of students into the field of public relations. As a staunch advocate for diversity and inclusion in public relations, he reinvigorated the PRSA’s national diversity committee, founding the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Black PRSA. The chapter’s founding student members included Dr. Ford, one of the foremost experts in diversity and inclusion in the public relations, advertising, and communications industries. A professor and dean of the School of Communications at Elon University, Dr. Ford will be honored with Page’s Distinguished Service Award the same evening Dukes, her mentor, is recognized. Ford nominated Dukes for the Hall of Fame.

“No one taught him how to be a public relations man, but he figured it out himself through intuition, grit, determination and a great instinct for what it takes to earn public trust,” Ford said. “Ofield Dukes personified the Page Principles – especially remaining calm, patient and good-humored.”

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