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Arthur Gelb, former New York Times managing editor, has died

Arthur Gelb, a veteran editor whose news sense,

Arthur Gelb, a veteran editor whose news sense, arts sensibility and journalistic vigor sculpted The New York Times for decades, has died. He was 90. Credit: AP / Marion Ettlinger

Arthur Gelb, a veteran editor whose news sense, arts sensibility and journalistic vigor sculpted The New York Times for decades, has died. He was 90.

His death yesterday afternoon in Manhattan was confirmed by Peter Clark, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Opera. Gelb's son, Peter Gelb, is its general manager.

Peter Gelb told the Times his father died from complications of a stroke.

Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said Arthur Gelb "brought great energy and insight" to the newspaper's journalism.

Arthur Neal Gelb was born in East Harlem on Feb. 3, 1924. His parents, immigrants from what is now Ukraine, ran a dress shop.

Gelb joined the Times as a copy boy in 1944 and rose to become its managing editor, with a passion and energy that made him a legend in the newsroom.

Just three days into his copy boy job, Gelb got editors' OK for a news outlet of his own: a weekly house organ detailing the paper's internal life, the Times said. He quickly got to know reporters and editors, and promotions followed.

Former Times managing editor Seymour Topping, who was succeeded by Gelb in 1986, said Tuesday, "He was one of the individuals who transformed The New York Times into a four-section newspaper that rescued it from a period of financial downturn.

"But perhaps more important -- and it will be a living monument to him -- he made the Times an outstanding cultural source that became a primary factor in the education of the American people to the arts," Topping said.

As an arts critic in the 1960s, Gelb wrote about Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce and others early in their careers.

He was metropolitan editor from 1967 to 1978, leading coverage of a city wracked by anti-war protests, a municipal near-bankruptcy and police corruption. The Times' reporting on allegations raised by NYPD Officer Frank Serpico helped spur reforms.

Gelb became deputy managing editor in 1977, then managing editor. After retiring in 1989, he served as president of the Times' charitable foundation.

He and his wife, Barbara, became experts on Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O'Neill, writing books about him and assisting on a documentary.

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