This blog post appears as a part of Black PR History Month. Please join the celebration held by the PR Museum on February 1, 2018 in NYC.

On the third Monday of each year, the United States pauses to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.; however, few know much about Ofield Dukes, a public relations professional who helped to spearhead the communications efforts to advocate for the King Holiday.

Ofield Dukes not only served as a communications counselor to Coretta Scott King but also to many civil rights leaders, US presidents, Black congress members, and political leaders between 1964 and his death in 2011.

In an effort to share his legacy with future generations, the Public Relations Museum Press published his autobiography: Ofield: The Autobiography of Public Relations Man Ofield Dukes in 2017 with two of his mentees, Rev. Dr. Unnia Pettus and me co-editing this memoir.

A staunch advocate for diversity and inclusion in public relations and other industries, Dukes founded the Washington DC Chapter of the Black Public Relations Society, taught the first course in public relations at Howard University, a historically black university, and reinvigorated the national diversity committee of the Public Relations Society of America.

Through case studies of some of his clients including Motown, Lever Brothers, Time Warner, Washington Bullets, and US Treasury, he offers readers lessons on crisis communications and community relations.

His insider’s view of related national politics working with Presidents John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President Hubert H. Humphry, the Congressional Black Caucus and others, he weaves words of wisdom that can be applied to public affairs and government relations.

Ofield made a practice of mentoring countless professionals and those contributions led him to receive PRSA’s Gold Anvil Award, its highest individual recognition. In 2014 PR Week post-humorously inducted him into its Hall of Fame. Dukes also won the PRSA Silver Anvil for his campaign celebrating the Inauguration of Detroit’s first Black Mayor Coleman Young.

While his professional accolades and network are too vast to describe here, the personal stories of triumph, loss, love, dismay and the importance of friends and family offer insight into his personal philosophy, his resilience and faith will inspire readers.

In keeping with his and his daughter Roxi’s wishes, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the memoire will benefit the Howard University Ofield Dukes Scholarship Fund, in which media mogul Cathy Hughes established in his name.

For more information visit

Rochelle L. Ford, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the public relations department at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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