The New Press Remembers: Bob Bernstein

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

ROBERT L. BERNSTEIN
January 5, 1923May 27, 2019

The New Press is deeply saddened to note the passing of Bob Bernstein, the distinguished publisher and human rights pioneer whose memoir, Speaking Freely: My Life in Publishing and Human Rights, The New Press was privileged to publish in 2016.

Bob Bernstein had a storied career; he started as an “office boy” at Simon & Schuster in 1946 (where he earned $30 per week) and worked his way up to become president of Random House in 1966, a position he held for twenty-five years. In his time at Random House Bernstein oversaw the growth of the company from a $40 million company to an $800-million-plus powerhouse.

From Truman Capote to E. L. Doctorow, from Senator George McGovern to film star Claudette Colbert, from William Faulkner to Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), and from Muhammad Ali to Andrei Sakharov, Bernstein crossed paths with and published dozens of cultural icons of the twentieth century. Famously, it was Bernstein who convinced Toni Morrison to publish at Knopf (she was then a Random House editor).

During an American Publishers Association trip to Moscow in 1973 Bernstein spent some time with Soviet publishers; these meetings solidified his passionate commitment to free speech, eventually leading him to found the organization that would become Human Rights Watch. Human rights work then became his second storied career.

Bernstein was an ardent supporter of New Press founding director André Schiffrin; when Schiffrin left Pantheon in 1990 to start his new not-for-profit publishing venture that would become The New Press, Bernstein’s support never wavered.

We extend our condolences to Bob’s family and to his many friends. He will long be remembered and appreciated.

Read obituaries in the Associated PressNew York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journaland Washington Post.