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Long IslandObituaries

Ofield Dukes, public relations exec, dies

Ofield Dukes, a prominent Washington public relations executive who represented major civil rights figures and entertainers and who helped focus support for a national holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died Wednesday in a hospital in Detroit. He was 79.

Dukes retired several months ago, and returned to live in Detroit, his hometown. His sister, Betty Hayden, said he died of multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer.

After working in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Dukes opened Ofield Dukes & Associates in 1969. His first client was Motown Records.

Capitalizing on his political connections and Washington's stature as a crossroads of black leaders, Dukes soon became one of the country's leading African-American public relations professionals.

He consulted with every Democratic presidential candidate since 1968, organized the first dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1972 and counted among his clients Coretta Scott King, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-Harlem), "Roots" author Alex Haley and boxing promoter Don King. Dukes was among the first African-American members of the Democratic National Committee's finance committee.

"Ofield was both a communications guru and someone who believed in equal opportunity for all," Democratic National Committee official Donna Brazile said. "He was an adviser, a mentor, but most of all a writer who believed that we must all tell our story and tell it again and again."

Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Roxi Victorian of Baton Rouge; three sisters and a grandson.

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