Robert Neville (journalist)

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Robert G. M. Neville (May 12, 1905 – February 17, 1970) was an American newspaper and magazine reporter who, in a 40-year career, covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Korean War, working for The New York Times, New York Post, New York Herald Tribune, PM and, starting in 1937, Time magazine, where he remained for two and, subsequently, 13 years, rising in 1938 to become the publication's foreign news editor.


A native of Oklahoma, Robert Neville was born on a ranch near the small city of Vinita, to Missourians Oliver D. Neville and Lavona A. Neville.[1] They subsequently moved with his family to Wyoming where, living in another small city, Gillette, he worked, at the age of 14, as a hand typesetter for a local newspaper. Starting his higher education at the University of California and then transferring to New York City for a Bachelor of Literature degree at Columbia University, he obtained a Master's degree from Columbia School of Journalism in 1929.


While studying for his degrees and for three years after receiving his Master's, he worked as a reporter for The Times,[2][3][4] then for the Post and eventually for the Herald Tribune which, in 1936, sent him to Spain for coverage of the civil war which had just erupted there. Some of his battlefield reports were also published in liberal weekly The New Republic.[5]

By 1937, after nearly a year in Spain, Neville was back in New York, changing his working environment from that of a daily newspaper to the weekly newsmagazine Time which, the following year, promoted him to the position of foreign news editor. Frequently traveling to the Polish capital, Warsaw, in the tense months preceding the outbreak of World War II, he witnessed, on September 1, 1939, the first day of the war, as Hitler's army invaded Poland. In 1940, William Saroyan lists him among "contributing editors" at Time in the play, Love's Old Sweet Song.[6]

Coming back again to New York, Neville decided on a return to daily newspaper work, joining, as one of the initial reporters, the newly founded (in June 1940) leftist afternoon daily PM, which did not accept advertising and resembled a weekly newsmagazine in its reliance on large photographs and stapled pages. Offered the same position he held at Time, foreign news editor,[7] Neville remained with PM until December 1941 when, in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, he entered the Army as a private, at the age of 36. Quickly promoted to staff sergeant and receiving an assignment to the publications division, he was sent to North Africa where he became a co-founder of the Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes edition covering the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World War II.[8][9] After the liberation of Rome, the paper moved its headquarters to the Italian capital where Neville, now holding the rank of captain,[10] with quick future promotions to major[11] and then lieutenant colonel, served as its editor and publications officer.[12]

In January 1946, eight months following the end of the war in Europe, Neville gave up his Army commission for civilian life in New York,[13] but soon thereafter decided on a return to Europe, rejoining Time as its Rome bureau chief. It was also in Rome, that a year later, at the age of 42, Neville married Italian Maria Sentinelli.[14]

Continuing to report from abroad, Neville was subsequently appointed as chief of Time–Life bureaus in Istanbul, Hong Kong,[15] Buenos Aires[16] and New Delhi, but ultimately deciding to live permanently in Rome, retiring from the publishing conglomerate in 1959, when he was 54. Continuing to work as a freelance writer, he authored The World of the Vatican, a 1962 book which examined the workings of the city-state's government,[17] as well as contributing numerous articles to diverse publications, including Encounter, Harper's, Look, as well as The New York Times Magazine[18][19][20] and The New York Times Book Review,[21][22][23][24] Sunday supplements of his earliest employer during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Personal and death[edit]

In 1967, during a skiing vacation in Switzerland, Robert Neville suffered a debilitating stroke which greatly diminished his writing ability and undermined his health, ultimately leading to his death three years later in Rome where, on February 19, 1970, two days after his death, a funeral service was held at St. Paul's Within the Walls Episcopal Church.[25] He was 64 years old and was survived by his wife.


  1. ^ 1910 United States Federal Census
  2. ^ Neville, Robert (dateline: Geneva). "League Is Losing a Man of Action; Sir Arthur Salter Who Has Carried Out Some of Its Most Difficult Tasks Is Soon to Retire." (The New York Times, March 20, 1927)
  3. ^ Neville, Robert (dateline: Madrid). "Spain Seeks Return to Glories of Past; Directorate Encourages Movement for Taking Over of All Foreign Enterprises" (The New York Times, June 25, 1927)
  4. ^ Neville, Robert. "Ancient Impositions That Still Flourish; Fraudulent Appeals to Charity and Offers of Gold Bricks Are Aimed Especially at the Newly Rich" (The New York Times, August 2, 1931)
  5. ^ "Stand of Bishops on Spain Defended; Paddock of Oregon Replies to Dr. Thorning—Says Slaying of Priests Is Opposed; Holds Many Bear Arms; And Cites Reports of Use of Churches as Barracks and for Ammunition Storage" (The New York Times, March 31, 1938) quote from eyewitness report by Robert Neville in the September 16, 1936 issue of The New Republic that "churches in Grenada were used as barracks for the Fascist organizations and the Rebel militia..."
  6. ^ Saroyan, William (1940). Love's Old Sweet Song: A Play in Three Acts. Samuel French. p. 72. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  7. ^ "British Tactics in Near East. 'Muddling Through'. War Correspondent's Criticism" (The Sydney Morning Herald, May 6, 1941) interview with Robert Neville upon his arrival from Cairo to wartime Australia
  8. ^ "Stars and Stripes Ready for North African Edition" {Norgaard, Noland. Associated Press syndication} (Reading Eagle, December 10, 1942)
  9. ^ (dateline: Allied Headquarters in North Africa) "Coal Strike News Delayed in Africa; Stars and Stripes Editor Says OWI Report on Situation Came After Publication; Men at Front Unaware; They Will Get First Report on Monday or Tuesday—Others Behind Lines Read Story" (The New York Times, May 5, 1943)
  10. ^ "Appointed to Army Paper; Capt. Robert Neville Succeeds White on Stars and Stripes" (The New York Times, July 29, 1944)
  11. ^ "Stars and Stripes Staff in Italy Up in Arms Over Edict Curbing Soldiers' Gripe Letters" (The New York Times, March 13, 1945)
  12. ^ "Army Starts to Probe Officer, GI Relations; Doolittle Heads Board of Ex-Service Men to Study Treatment of Enlisted Personnel" {Associated Press syndication} (Schenectady Gazette, March 19, 1946)
  13. ^ Shalett, Sidney. "Patterson Orders Army 'Caste' Sifted; Names Civilian Board of Six, Headed by Doolittle, to Hear Critics of System" (The New York Times, March 19, 1946)
  14. ^ U.S., Consular Reports of Marriages, 1910-1949
  15. ^ "War: Inside Red China" (Time magazine, April 9, 1951)
  16. ^ Bracker, Milton. "U.S. Investigating Peron Censorship: Embassy Preparing Report on Deleting of Dispatches by Foreign Correspondents" (The New York Times, December 19, 1948)
  17. ^ Pope, Liston. "On These Stones Is Built a Church; The World of the Vatican by Robert Neville" (The New York Times Book Review, October 14, 1962)
  18. ^ Neville, Robert, "La Dolce Vita Sans Kissing; Has Italian jurisprudence gone berserk? It is now illegal to embrace in public——and 'public' includes one's own automobile" (The New York Times Sunday Magazine, March 18, 1962) on the article's first page, the bottom blurb states, "ROBERT NEVILLE has been a close observer of Italian social customs since his days on The Stars and Stripes during the war. He now lives in Rome and writes on a freelance basis."
  19. ^ Neville, Robert (dateline: Palermo). "The New Mafia Is Deadlier; The old Sicilian gangsters had a rural and romantic flavor. Now they have moved into the cities — and grown murderous. Here is a report from the Mafia's 'capital'" (The New York Times Sunday Magazine, January 12, 1964) on the article's first page, the bottom blurb states, "ROBERT NEVILLE, a veteran newspaperman, has lived in Italy for several years."
  20. ^ Neville, Robert. "Longo Tries Togliatti's Shoes" (The New York Times Sunday Magazine, November 8, 1964) on the article's first page, the bottom blurb states, "ROBERT NEVILLE resides in Rome and frequently reports on Italian affairs."
  21. ^ Neville, Robert. "Amid the Confusion, a Clear View of Battle; MOLLIE and Other War Pieces by A. J. Liebling" (The New York Times Book Review, February 23, 1964) on the review's first page, the bottom blurb states, "Mr. Neville served as editor of Stars and Stripes in World War II. He is now a free lance in Rome."
  22. ^ Neville, Robert. "Holiday with Chic; In the Company of Dolphins by Irwin Shaw" (The New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1964) on the review's first page, the bottom blurb states, "Mr. Neville is an American journalist who lives and works in Rome."
  23. ^ Neville, Robert. "A Man to Be Used; Red Pawn: The Story of Noel Field by Flora Lewis" (The New York Times Book Review, January 17, 1965) on the review's first page, the bottom blurb states, "Mr. Neville is a former editor of Stars and Stripes and now a freelance journalist in Europe."
  24. ^ Neville, Robert. "Telling Moments; THE ITALIANS: Face of a Nation by John Phillips" (The New York Times Book Review, September 12, 1965) on the review's first page, the bottom blurb states, "A freelance critic and journalist, Mr. Neville lives and works in Rome."
  25. ^ "Robert Neville, Writer, Is Dead; a Former Time Correspondent" (The New York Times, February 18, 1970)