December 7, 2011
Ofield Dukes, APR, Fellow PRSA, a distinguished PR professional, educator and journalist, died this morning in his hometown of Detroit after a battle with bone cancer. He was 79.
Dukes was president of Ofield Dukes and Associates, a highly regarded Washington, D.C.-based PR firm that specialized in political affairs and minority affairs with particular focus on African-American and African issues.
He was a PRSA member for more than 40 years. In 2001, he received the Gold Anvil Award, PRSA’s highest individual honor. He was the first African-American that the Society honored with the award.
Dukes led PRSA’s first National Diversity Task Force in 2002 and 2003, which resulted in the Chapter Diversity Awards. Dukes began an educational campaign across the country, taking the diversity message to Chapters as one of the top priorities of the National leadership.
“Ofield Dukes inspired so many of us to follow our hearts and our passion to make public relations that much better a profession through a commitment to diversity,” said Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, PRSA’s chair and CEO. “His professional legacy lives on in those of us who worked directly with him, who got to know him and who were touched by him.”
Dukes was born on Aug. 8, 1932, in Rutledge, Ala. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1958. He went on to receive three National Newspaper Publishers Association awards for editorial, column and feature writing for the Michigan Chronicle in l964.
He relocated to Washington, D.C., later in 1964 to join the Johnson-Humphrey administration as deputy director of information for the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, which President Lyndon B. Johnson chaired.
In 1966, the White House appointed him to the staff of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, serving through 1968. Dukes started his own PR firm in 1969 with an office at the National Press Building. Motown Records was his first client.
Dukes helped organize the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner and served on the boards of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change.
He has also been a communications consultant for every Democratic presidential campaign since 1972. In 1993, he founded the Black Public Relations Society of Washington.
At Howard University, where he taught as an adjunct professor for 17 years, he was instrumental in formulating the PR curriculum. Dukes also served as an adjunct professor in the School of Communications at The American University for eight years.
“Ofield was a pioneer, a visionary leader who gave unselfishly to the public relations profession in an effort to increase greater understanding, ethics, and inclusion of people from all walks of life, nationalities, races and genders,” said Dr. Rochelle Ford, APR, associate dean, School of Communications, Howard University. “His contributions to the practice, education and politics are numerous and he has touched many as a mentor and a friend, including me.”
In October, Dukes left Washington, D.C., after 46 years for his native Detroit to spend time with family and friends.
In an email to colleagues this past fall, he wrote: “I feel so blessed in my journey from the cotton fields of rural Alabama where my parents were share-croppers, through a rigidly racially segregated Detroit, surviving the violence of war in Korea, and then the unexpected, great excitement of Washington, D.C.”
Dukes is survived by his daughter, Roxi Victorian, son-in-law, Michael B. Victorian, grandson, Michael Dukes Victorian, and sisters, Lou Brock, Anne Harris, and Betty Hayden. Memorial services are pending. Expressions of condolence to the Dukes family may be sent to 16140 LaSalle Avenue, Detroit, MI 48221.
The PRSA Foundation is creating a scholarship to honor Dukes. Anyone wishing to participate in the scholarship fund may contact Wendy.firstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 460-4412.
Ed Note: We encourage readers to use the comments section (by clicking the “View Comments” link below) to share your favorite memories about Ofield and pay tribute to his life.