Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Roone Arledge papers, 1953-2002

Summary Information


This collection documents the professional career of television executive, Roone Arledge, during his time as President of the News and Sports divisions of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1423
Bib ID 6297800 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Arledge, Roone
Title Roone Arledge papers, 1953-2002
Physical Description 21 linear feet (39 boxes 1 large index card box 1 flat box)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in six series.



The Roone Arledge Papers consist primarily of office material generated from his time as President of ABC News and ABC Sports. The bulk of the collection is comprised of correspondence, both internal to the corporation and external. Letters were exchanged between Arledge and other top management during all phases of a show: the creation, production, and maintenance. There are also topical files related to the management of the two divisions, such as financial records, program development documents, rating and industry reports, legal records, and trip itineraries for numerous business trips to Europe and Asia.

On a broader level, there are records concerning Arledge's overall career at ABC. These consist of various awards and honors he received, research material on other television networks and stations, articles, and papers from professional organizations that he had been involved with.

  • Series I: General, 1953-2002

    This small series contains records with regard to Roone Arledge's career in the television industry as a whole. Within this series are articles about Roone Arledge, ABC NEWS, and ABC Sports, various awards Arledge received for his contributions to the field of broadcasting, personal records, such as his diploma from Columbia College and his military records, and speeches that he gave. There are also records pertaining to other news organizations in the United States, Europe, England, and Japan. Arledge was a board member of ESPN and A & E Television Networks and documents concerning his work for them may be found here as well.

  • Series II: Correspondence, 1954-2002

    Series II is the largest of the collection. The letters held here date from Roone Arledge's time at ABC as head of both the sports and news division. In general, the correspondence, while large in bulk, is limited in content. The letters consist primarily of the type of letters an executive would be professionally obligated to send, such as congratulatory notes to colleagues within and outside of the company, thank you letters for corporate gifts, letters of inquiry from individuals wanting to work at ABC, and complaints from all manners of citizens. This series is divided into two subseries: Topical and Chronological. Please note that individuals listed in Subseries II.1 may be found in Subseries II.2.

  • Series III: ABC News, 1977-2002

    Series III is comprised of topical files documenting Roone Arledge's time as President of ABC News. Included are financial records, such as operating budgets and long range plans, program development for potential news shows, legal documents from several lawsuits, concerning predominantly the Food Lion and Philip Morris cases, and documents in regards to various trips Arledge conducted. Of note are Arledge's appointment books that were maintained by his personal assistant. These books contain Arledge's numerous appointments, meetings, trips and other activities related to his work at ABC. Often, names of individuals who participated in these activities are listed as well. The notebooks provide insight into how Arledge organized his time as well as show the amount of coordination involved in being President of ABC News.

  • Series IV: ABC Sports, 1961-2001

    This small series holds topical files in regards to ABC Sports. General administrative records, records pertaining to the NFL, Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports, and the network coverage of the Goodwill Games, championship boxing, and Major League Baseball are found in this series. There is also documentation of the many Olympic Games that were covered including Calgary, Seoul, Los Angeles, and Sarajevo. The Olympic records illustrate the amount of synchronization and planning that Roone Arledge and his team were required to do in order to cover the multiple competitions occurring at the event. Additionally, there are transcripts of testimonies by Howard Cosell and Roone Arledge, correspondence, and accompanying documents concerning the Subcommittee on Communications' review of the Communications Act of 1934, particularly with regard to in particular how television networks (and, in this case, sports divisions) obtained programming

  • Series V: Photographs, 1984-1994

    There are a small number of photographs within this collection. Most were taken while Arledge was receiving some type of recognition, such as his honorary degree from Boston University. There are also photographs from his visit to the White House and the meeting with executives from the Japan-based television network, Nippon Hoso Kyokai.

  • Series VI: Memorabilia and Realia, 1989-1998

    This series is composed of several objects such as commemorative stamps and an award given by the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Of particular interest are several sets of Russian nesting dolls acquired in one of Roone Arledge's many trips to Moscow. These matreshka " depict political leaders who have had an impact on Russia's cultural and political history. Examples include Mikhail Gorbachev and his cabinet members, Stalin, chief prosecutors (with the names of those that were killed during their time), and the successive heads of numerous secret police organizations leading up to the KGB.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Roone Arledge papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Gigi Shaw Arledge on March 11, 2003. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--11 March 2003.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Lea Osborne 2007.

Finding Aid wiritten Lea Osborne September 2007.

Revision Description

2008-11-07 File created.

2009-01-12 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor

2009-04-22 Revised by Lea Osborne

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Awards Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Character dolls Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
ABC News Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
ABC Sports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Arledge, Roone Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Broadcast journalism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Legal documents Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Olympics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Philip Morris Incorporated Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Television -- Production and direction Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Television and sports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Television journalists -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Roone Pinckney Arledge Jr. was born on July 8, 1931 in Forest Hill,s Queens. His father was a lawyer for equitable Life Insurance and his mother, Gertrude, was a housewife. The family moved to Merrick, Long Island where Arledge attended Mepham High School. Arledge went to Columbia College where he majored in Foreign Affairs, Politics and Government, and the Humanities. During his undergraduate years, he was a member, and eventually president, of Phi Gamma Delta, a member of the Class Steering Committee, and received Gold and Silver King's Crowns for extracurricular leadership. He was also editor of both the Columbian (the yearbook) and The Spectator (the campus newspaper). Arledge attended Columbia from 1948 to 1952; however, he officially graduated in 1954. Arledge also pursued graduate work at the School of International Affairs, Columbia University. He specialized in the Near and Middle East, but did not complete the program.

Arledge first started working in television in December 1952 for the DuMont Television Network. He was the assistant to the Associate Director of Programming and Production. His duties included managing the budget for select shows, paying talent, and general administrative work.

In March of 1953, Arledge was conscripted to the United States Army. There he served as Chief of the Radio and Television Section of the Public Information Office at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. In this role, Arledge distributed information with regard to the United States Army Ordnance Corps, its weapons, training and other relevant issues to local radio stations and television networks. He also produced, directed, and wrote a thrice-weekly radio program. Arledge received a Good Conduct medal in December of 1954 and a National Defense Service Medal. During this time, Arledge married his first wife, Joan Dorothy Heise. They would go on to have four children together: Roone Pinckney, Patricia Lu, Elizabeth Ann, and Susan Lee.

Arledge was hired by NBC in 1954. Shortly after, he was transferred to the Army Reserve. At NBC, Arledge held a variety of positions. He was a stage manager, then unit Supervisor, and finally a staff producer/director. In this last position he produced a children's show entitled Hi Mom, Christmas at Rockefeller Center (featuring Dick Button who was later a commentator for Ice Skating at the ABC covered Olympics), Sunday's Schedule, election night coverage, and travel shows.

Arledge also wrote several shows. Masterpiece dramatized stories on the creation of "high art" such as the Sistine Chapel. A second concept, For Men Only, would feature jazz music and present male-oriented topics. While both shows were unsuccessful, the latter caught the eye of Edgar J. Scherick who ran the sports division for ABC.

In 1960 Arledge joined ABC Sports as a producer of NCAA football games. ABC was in financial trouble and, in terms of ratings, the weakest of the three major stations: ABC, CBS, and NBC. This was an opportune moment to enact change at ABC and throughout his career, Arledge did simply that. One year after being hired, Arledge created ABC's Wide World of Sports, one of the highest rated sports shows in television history. In 1968, Arledge became president of ABC Sports. Under his guidance, ABC Sports grew one of the most well-known and respected broadcasting organizations in the world. Arledge promoted the use of innovative camera techniques such as slow motion, freeze frame, instant replay, split-screen, incorporated underwater cameras during swimming competitions and utilized endzone cameras during football coverage.

In addition to Wide World of Sports, Arledge brought football to primetime, a move that no one had attempted. With NFL Monday Night Football, a new era in sports broadcasting was opened. A key aspect of Arledge's impact was his use of commentators for sporting events. Previously, leagues had the right to approve announcers. Arledge ignored this trend and decided to use Howard Cosell against the views of the league. Along with Cosell, Jim McKay and Frank Gifford became household names as sports announcers. This technique, of using "star" personalities came into play when Arledge moved over to ABC News as well.

Arledge and ABC Sports also presented major golf tournaments, Major League Baseball, championship boxing, the Indianapolis 500, racing, including the Kentucky Derby and ten Olympic Games. He was president of that division until 1986. While at ABC Sports, Arledge divorced his first wife and married Ann Fowler, a former Miss Alabama, in 1976.

On June 1, 1977, in a wave of more unprecedented action, Arledge was named President of ABC News in addition to ABC Sports. In this role, he created the top shows World News Tonight, 20/20, Closeup, and Nightline. He was instrumental in building a team of top journalists and aggressively pursued anchors from other networks. Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Peter Jennings, David Brinkley, and Ted Koppell all worked for Arledge. ABC News represented big names as well as big salaries, another first in the industry. Roone Arledge kept this position for almost ten years and maintained his role as President of ABC News for twenty.

In 1997, David Westin was named President of ABC News and Arledge became Chair. Almost all of Arledge's news shows had received awards and the network itself had received the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for the overall commitment of excellence, the first time a news organization had been honored in that way. Arledge had won 37 Emmys, including the first life-time achievement Emmy ever granted, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Journalism Alumni Association, the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for live television broadcasting, and the Silver Medal of the Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee. He was quoted as saying his most treasured award was a George Foster Peabody Award--he received a total of four of these awards--given for coverage of the 1972 Olympics in Munich where eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed. ABC was the only network able to transmit their broadcast out of Germany and link the rest of the world to the tragedy.

Arledge had battled prostate cancer in the last years of his life, conducting business mainly by phone, but nevertheless, staying in the thick of work. He died on November 5, 2002.