Kurt M. Luedtke ’61

Kurt M. Luedtke ’61, of Birmingham, Mich.; Aug. 9. After Brown, he entered the University of Michigan Law School, but the burgeoning civil rights movement drew him to the South to witness and write several pieces on a freelance basis. He then enrolled in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and became an intern at the Miami Herald. He joined the Detroit Free Press in 1965 as a general assignment reporter, where he helped create Action Line, a reader interactive feature that filled one-quarter of the front page for 14 years beginning with its debut in 1966. He became an assistant city editor by the time the city’s 1967 civil disturbance broke out and his piece “The Forty-Three Who Died” was part of a package that won the Detroit Free Press a Pulitzer Prize in 1968. He became the newsroom manager after that, and by June 1970 he was running the newsroom with the title of assistant to the executive editor. In 1973, he was made executive editor at the age of 33. Luedtke left the newspaper in 1978 looking to write screenplays, something he knew nothing about. Within days of leaving Los Angeles because of not finding work, he pitched a novel he had thought about writing over the years to Orion Pictures that ultimately became Absence of  Malice, starring Paul Newman and Sally Field. Luedkte was nominated for an original screenplay Academy Award for the 1981 film. The film was partially shot in the Miami Herald newsroom where Luedtke had worked. He followed with a screenplay of Out of Africa, which won seven Oscars in 1986, including best picture and best adapted screenplay for Luedtke. There were numerous other screenwriting jobs that followed before he slowed down. Luedtke was often called upon to talk about free speech. He even did so while accepting a William Rogers Award at Brown in 1987. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor.

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Class of 1961

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