Josephy, Alvin M., Jr. 1915–2005

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Josephy, Alvin M., Jr. 1915–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born May 18, 1915, in Woodmere, NY; died October 16, 2005, in Greenwich, CT. Historian, editor, and author. Josephy was an authority on the history of Native Americans in the West, especially the Nez Percé tribe. He came from a family of publishers; he was the grandson of Samuel Knopf and nephew of Alfred A. Knopf. Josephy's college hopes were dashed during his second year at Harvard University in 1934, when his family's money ran out because of the Great Depression. Contacting an uncle who worked in Holly-wood, he got a job as a junior writer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He found the work not to his liking, however, and followed this with jobs at a Wall Street brokerage firm and then as a foreign correspondent in Mexico. Here he notably had an opportunity to interview Leon Trotsky, the exiled Russian revolutionary. During World War II, Josephy continued his correspondent work as a reporter covering the Marine Corps in the Pacific theater. He returned to Hollywood after the war and took up script writing again, finding some success with the film The Captive City (1952). Josephy became involved in publishing and editing when he joined the staff of Time magazine in New York City as an associate editor during the 1950s. It was while here that he started to become interested in Native American history, primarily because he found existing resources at the time to be so scant. He began taking trips out West to do research, and was shocked by the deplorable conditions in which tribes were living, thanks to policies of the Eisenhower administration that took away the Native Americans' autonomy. Josephy interviewed these people and became particularly interested in the Nez Percé and their famous leader Chief Joseph. He began writing about Indian history with such publications as The Patriot Chiefs: A Chronicle of American Indian Leadership (1961) and Chief Joseph's People and Their War (1964). In 1960, Josephy left Time to take a job as vice president and senior editor of American Heritage books. He did this for sixteen years, then served as editor and editor in chief of American Heritage magazine until 1979. During the late 1960s, he also became active in preserving Native American culture as commissioner of Indian Arts and Crafts Board for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Beginning in 1977, he became a trustee for the Museum of the American Indian, as well as for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. As a founding board chairman of the National Museum of the American Indian, one of his last public appearances was at the opening ceremony for the museum in 2004. Among his many other books, Josephy was the author of The Indian Heritage of America (1968), Black Hills, White Sky (1979), Now that the Buffalo's Gone: A Study of Today's American Indians (1982), and Five-Hundred Nations (1994). At the time of his death, he had completed editing the anthology Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes (2006).



Josephy, Alvin M., Jr., A Walk toward Oregon: A Memoir, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.


Chicago Tribune, October 18, 2005, section 3, p. 8.

Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2005, p. B9.

New York Times, October 18, 2005, p. C19.

Washington Post, October 18, 2005, p. B6.

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Josephy, Alvin M., Jr. 1915–2005

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