Born 19 January 1856 in Sand Lake, New York
Died 22 February 1937 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Buried Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium, Middle Village, New York
Elected 1 November 1902 at age forty-six
In the Club-house reading-room of an afternoon, Rollo Ogden had long been a familiar figure. Usually, he was immersed in one of the London monthly or quarterly reviews; indeed, his interest in the parliamentary vicissitudes of England or the Continent belonged to one who was best-informed of all American editors on Europe’s political past. With the political history of his own country he was even better acquainted; an extraordinarily tenacious memory enabled him to reply at once, with all the names and dates and circumstances, to inquiry concerning an obscure or forgotten incident. There is a saying in newspaper offices that it is easy to obtain the exact facts of an episode which happened half a century ago, not very hard to unearth them when they are twenty-five years behind us, but extremely difficult to run them down when they occurred last year, and almost impossible to reconstruct on short notice the precise order of events of two or three months ago. But Ogden could give the facts offhand and in full detail.
Development of Ogden’s high editorial efficiency came to him on the old Evening Post of Godkin’s day. Before he joined that staff in 1891, he had written for the affiliated Nation, largely on social and literary topics. It was only gradually that he came to share in writing the “political leaders,” but his grasp of the subject and his forceful style soon made them noteworthy. When, after the turn of the century, he succeeded Horace White and E. L. Godkin as editor-in-chief of the Evening Post, the brilliant chapter of his career began. In 1920, when the Times required an associate editor who should be Charles R. Miller’s lieutenant and eventual successor, the choice fell unhesitatingly on Ogden.
Like most of the older-school editors, Ogden preferred to write his articles by hand. But he also possessed in very uncommon measure the faculty of dictating his editorial matter to a short-hand secretary, without impairment either of style, compactness, or precision. He often had to adopt this recourse; for it became a byword of his Evening Post staff that, whenever contributions of his colleagues were not numerous enough to fill the editorial page or not varied enough in topic to suit his editorial judgment, Ogden would supplement his leading article with one or two others of his own; discussing, in his own incisive manner and with his own fulness of information, wholly different questions. He could frame such dictated editorials to exactly the length required—a column, half a column, a quarter-column—and could do so without cutting or expanding the typed manuscript which resulted. When, during his last year or two of life, his sight became so impaired that he could no longer see to read or write, Ogden continued to provide for the Times its leading editorials. This astonishing achievement was made possible, first by listening while his secretary read to him all of the morning newspaper, then by arranging in his mind the facts and treatment which the editorial required, and finally by dictating it, at precisely the scope and length desired.
Somewhat reticent in speech, not possessing many intimates, nevertheless the friendliness of Ogden’s manner and his easy conversation won him not only the complete loyalty of his editorial associates, but the cordial regard of whoever met him. Exacting as was his editorial task, he never lost his liking for out-of-door life. In his college days, he pitched for the Williams nine. Almost up to the last, his repute on the golf-links was unchallenged.
Alexander Dana Noyes
1938 Century Association Yearbook