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Ward Swift Just Papers

Identifier: 1990-34

Collection Scope

SERIES I: Published and Unpublished Works (1960-1989) contains research sources; correspondence; clippings; reviews; page proofs; and editors’ comments related to Just’s early career as a news writer for Newsweek (1962-1966), his work as a journalist and Vietnam War correspondent for The Washington Post


  • 1958 - 1991



Access to the collection is unrestricted.


Copyright to this collection has been retained by the donors. Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.


The son and grandson of newspaper publishers Ward Swift Just was born 5 Sep 1935, in Michigan City, Indiana, and grew up in Waukegan and Lake Forest, Illinois. After graduating from Cranbrook School in 1953 and attending Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut) in 1957, he took his first job as a reporter for the family newspaper The Waukegan News-Sun. Between 1959 and 1965 Just wrote briefly for The Reporter, but primarily for Newsweek magazine’s offices in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City, and London. After reporting for Newsweek on the 1957 war in Cyprus and the 1965 conflict in the Dominican Republic, Just was hired by Benjamin Bradlee at The Washington Post and soon was sent to Saigon as its Vietnam war correspondent. From December of 1965 to May of 1967, the Post published close to 400 of Just's articles, often on the front page. He was seriously wounded by North Vietnamese in June, 1966, while accompanying a reconnaissance patrol that came under heavy attack. After recovering in D.C., Just returned to Saigon for a second tour. Leaving Saigon in May, 1967, he went to Ireland where he wrote To What End: Report from Vietnam. The article, published in ‘The Washington Post,’ was widely cited as an important adjunct to helping the nation understand the futility of the war. After covering the presidential campaigns of both Eugene McCarthy and Richard Nixon for the Post in 1968, Just was invited to join the Post’s editorial board. Taking a leave of absence in 1969, Just moved to Vermont. There he wrote his first fictional work, A Soldier of the Revolution, in 1970 and then completed the research and wrote his last book of non-fiction, Military Men, which was published late in the same year. He then turned to the writing of short stories. The Atlantic Monthly magazine published nine of them (1971-1973) and they were later collected as The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert and Other Washington Stories (1973). Although continuing to deal with the atmosphere and military involvements of Washington, Just again changed genres and produced two novels, Stringer (1974) and Nicholson at Large (1975). Just became a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly during this time and several of his short stories and two novellas were published. They appeared later as a collection, Honor, Power, Riches, Fame, and the Love of Women in 1979. In Just's 1978 novel, A Family Trust, the location shifted back to the American Midwest and concerns a family-owned newspaper that is moving into the third generation. It is heavily based on his early experiences with the family newspaper. The personal and political dynamics of Washington and Vietnam return in his next two works, In the City of Fear (1982) and The American Blues (1984).

Never excluding these dimensions, Just continued to write novels about the passage of time in the context of families. The American Ambassador (1987) and Jack Gance (1989) reflect this. In 1990 Twenty-One Selected Stories appeared, including both previously published and new short stories. Just continued to examine close human relationships in The Translator (1991) and Ambition & Love (1994). Ward Just was married three times: to Jean Ramsay in 1957, to Anne Burling in 1967, and to Sarah Catchpole in 1983. He has two daughters, Jennifer Ramsay and Julia Barnett, by his first wife and one son, Ian Ward, by his second. Just passed away at the age of 84 on December 19, 2019 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


26.6 Linear Feet ((11 MS, 22 SB), 1 OS folder)

Language of Materials



A 1953 graduate of Cranbrook School, Ward Swift Just (1935-2019) was an American war correspondent, journalist, and author of over 17 novels and numerous short stories. He was born into a family of newspaper publishers on September 5, 1935 in Michigan City, Indiana, and raised in Waukegan and Lake Forest, Illinois. Just’s lucrative career spanned over five decades, including his experience as a reporter for the Waukegan News-Sun, a writer for The Reporter magazine and Newsweek, a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly, and as a Vietnam war correspondent and member of the editorial board for The Washington Post. Just was also an author of several works of fiction and non-fiction including A Soldier of the Revolution, and Military Men. Some of his most notable works include To What End: Report from Vietnam ('The Washington Post') which exposed the ineffectiveness of the war; Echo House, which was the finalist for the National Book Award in 1997; A Dangerous Friend, which received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for fiction from the Society of American Historians in 2001; and An Unfinished Season, which was the winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. In 2013 Just was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Just’s final novel, The Eastern Shore was published in 2016. He passed away three years later on December 19, 2019. The collection contains materials relative to Just's professional life including research sources, correspondence, clippings, reviews, proofs, editors’ comments and notes, diaries, calendars, notebooks, scrapbooks, souvenirs, typescripts, and copies of Just’s books.


The papers of Ward Just are arranged to follow his development as a news writer, war correspondent and author. They have been organized into five series: Series I: Published and Unpublished Works (Boxes 1-5), Series II: Correspondence (Boxes 6-7), Series III: Memorabilia (Boxes 8-9, Folder 1), Series IV: Proofs and Drafts (Boxes 10-29), and Series V: Books.

Series I: Materials are grouped by genre within a chronological sequence. Unpublished Works files are interfiled with Published Works files.

Series II: Materials are arranged chronologically and by subject.

Series IV: Materials have been arranged mainly in alphabetical order by title. The page order as received from the donor has been maintained. The typescript pages are numbered, but they are not arranged numerically, which reflects the original arrangement of Just’s revisions.

Additional Access

An index to the collection is available. All published material in the collection is listed in a Bibliography.


Gift of Ward Just in September, 1990. Several additions were added from 1998-2011.

Processing History

Processed by William McMahon, September 1994.

Guide to the Ward Swift Just Papers
Original finding aid written by William McMahon.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Resource record created by Nichole L. Manlove.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository