On Oct. 21, the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Black Public Relations society is holding its inaugural Ofield Dukes Excellence in Public Relations Awards ceremony to celebrate the life and legacy of Dukes as well as honor the achievements of Washington D.C.-area practitioners, thought leaders, and academics in public relations and communications. The event is scheduled to take place at the JW Marriott in Northwest D.C.

The Ofield Dukes, a public relations maverick, was known for helping D.C. locals prosper within the industry. (Courtesy Photo)

“My father taught me that we are Black first and foremost. As Black people, he understood that it is our obligation to pursue excellence in every endeavor,” Roxi Victorian, the PR guru’s daughter, told the AFRO in an email. “Because, it is only with excellence that we can extend opportunities to other African-Americans, he embodied that ethos and was quick to offer anyone pursuing excellence an opportunity.”

Dukes, born in Rutledge, Ala. in 1932, earned a degree in journalism from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1958 after serving for two years in the United States Army.

Dukes also served in multiple presidential administrations, including serving in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration as deputy director of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress in 1964. In 1965, he became the deputy director of public affairs for the White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights, where he stayed until 1969 when he established a public relations firm, Ofield Dukes & Associates, in D.C.

Dukes also led the community with his knowledge of public relations through two adjunct professor positions since 1972 at Howard University and American University. He died from complications of bone cancer in 2011 at the age of 79.

Throughout his lifetime, Dukes helped in the inaugural celebration of home rule in 1975. He also helped in establishing Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday.

“Ofield was not only my mentor but also my sponsor helping me secure my first job after graduation at a boutique agency that focused on supporting Washington D.C.-based businesses and city-government relations especially Franklin Square and Georgetown,” Rochelle Ford, co-editor of {Ofield: The Autobiography of Public Relations Man Ofield Dukes}, released on August 31, 2017, told the AFRO. The other editor of the autobiography is the Rev. Dr. Unnia L. Pettus, a local entrepreneur. Both women attended Howard University.