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[1968 · Akron Beacon Journal • Editorial Writing]



John S. Knight, editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, started a regular column in 1936, and continued writing it for four decades. Most of the editorials centered on his opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1968, the Beacon Journal won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for Kuekes’ work.

Knight began tracking America’s involvement with Vietnam in 1954, when the United States sent military advisors to aid South Vietnam against the communist North Vietnam. At the time, military officials adamantly declared that no American troops were to be sent to Vietnam.

Knight was skeptical of this announcement and accurately predicted that America’s involvement would continue to escalate in the coming years.

In 1963, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor went on an inspection tour of the South Vietnamese troops and announced that they believed the war could be won by 1965.

Knight looked back at that time in a column he wrote on June 5, 1966. “My comment at the time was that such proclamations were not worth reading ‘since there is not a word of truth in them.’ Yet the American people did give them credence because of the high authority of those who made them,” he wrote.

As Knight predicted, the United States began sending troops to Vietnam in 1965. At the time, most believed American forces would overcome North Vietnam quickly. However, as the war dragged on, the American public began to grow tired of it. The final straw for many was the 1969 institution of a new draft lottery. Many said that America had no right to be in a civil war so far away, which Knight had been saying back in 1954.

Knight’s editorials were not only skeptical, analytical and frank, they were also emotional. He strongly identified with the youth of the time and mirrored their frustration and anger at being forced into a war they did not believe in.

On April 9, 1967, Knight wrote “Let our patriots on the home front—who have been called upon for no physical sacrifice, try to understand the feelings and emotions of youth when they are less than enthusiastic over our professed national goals. For there is a new generation which rightly challenges what their elders have done in the past.”

Many believed the young war protestors were unpatriotic cowards, but Knight understood their efforts and gave their movement a professional voice throughout the war.

Knight started as a sportswriter in 1920 at the newspaper his father owned, The Akron Beacon Journal. He inherited the newspaper at his father’s death. The Great Depression hit the newspaper hard financially, but Knight brought it back to solvency and beyond, and along with his brother James, co-founded the Knight Ridder Newspapers as well as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

by Lindsey Gump

These ten columns address the United States’ involvement in the Viet Nam conflict.


The Beacon Journal front page from May 7, 1968, announcing Knight’s Pulitzer win.

A look back at John S. Knight’s legacy, from the Akron Beacon Journal.

John S. Knight died on June 16, 1981 at the age of 86. Here is his obituary from The New York Times.

The Knight Foundation is an organization started by John S. Knight and his brother James L. Knight in 1950. It funds journalism, art, and media projects across America.