After joining The Sun in 1953, Mr. Sterne covered the General Assembly and administration of Governor Theodore McKeldin (right) before one of the senior editors named him as a foreign correspondent asking: ” How is your British accent? I’m sending you to London.
Mr. Sterne spent much of 1959 traveling across Africa to report on the continent’s decolonization. During the Congolese crisis, he was injured aboard an army helicopter.
He was in Washington as a Congressional correspondent in November 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. Armed with an Associated Press biographical sketch and a few reference books, Mr Sterne sat down at his typewriter at 3 p.m. and began writing an obituary.
He began: “John Fitzgerald Kennedy attached the label of the new frontier to a career of boldness and vision. … His rocking chair, his Boston-Harvard brogue, his shock of brown hair, his taste for political combat, his instinctive humor, his quest for peace by force … have all left their mark on an era of l American history.
Mr. Sterne wrote a detailed history of the 35th President mainly from memory. “It was the longest thing I ever wrote,” he recalls in an interview with The Sun in 2013, and by the time he quit typing he had gone through four packs of cigarettes and hadn’t. never smoked again.
A few years later, Mr. Sterne was head of the Bonn bureau when publisher William F. Schmick Jr. visited him in Germany and offered him two choices: he could become editor of the newspaper’s editorial page or Washington bureau chief. He chose the former and took over the editorial page in 1972.
During his tenure, Mr. Sterne hired the newspaper’s two first African-American editorial editors, Denton Watson and Jerelyn Eddings. He was also in a constant battle with the notoriously autocratic mayor, William Donald Schaefer.
“Schaefer would often call Joe and yell at him. Joe always treated these calls diplomatically, saying, “I treated him like my sons when they were young and I had temper tantrums,” wrote Barry Rascovar, deputy editor of the editorial page during the mandate of Mr. Sterne. “He would let Schaefer speak, then calmly ask questions or make a humorous remark.
Mr. Sterne was the senior editor of the Sun editorial page.
“Her page has acted as a vocal cheerleader and promoter for Baltimore. It was a public rebuke from government officials and politicians, ”Rascovar wrote in a farewell tribute at the time. “The goal: to produce well-written, thought-out editorials powerful enough to persuade influencers to do the right thing. At election time, he saw his job as giving readers clear advice on the best candidates. “
Joseph Robert Livingston Sterne was born in Philadelphia on April 25, 1928. His father owned a commercial real estate business.
He graduated in 1945 from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and received a master’s degree in 1950 from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dallas Morning News before joining The Sun.
Upon retirement, Mr. Sterne was a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. His books included “Combat Correspondents: The Baltimore Sun in World War II” and, in the search for the book, read all of the Sun’s war reports.
His marriage to Barbara Greene ended in divorce. The survivors include five sons; two brothers; 15 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.