Mr. Manning served as Time-Life’s London bureau chief from 1958-61. Growing restive in the Luce empire, he became Sunday editor of The New York Herald Tribune, only to find himself with even less freedom than he had enjoyed at Time. Thus he was glad a year later to become assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the Kennedy administration. Asked by his boss, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, if he was “willing to lie for your country,” Mr. Manning icily replied, “No.” That was the right answer, and Mr. Manning spent 2½ years in the upper echelons of government.
After a breaking-in period as executive editor, he became the 10th editor in chief of the Atlantic, in 1966. The magazine nearly doubled its circulation during his tenure and became a leading critic of US involvement in Indochina. He instituted the “Reports and Comments” section, and among writers whose careers he furthered were Elizabeth Drew, James Fallows, Ward Just, James Alan McPherson, L.E. Sissman, Ross Terrill, Tracy Kidder, and Dan Wakefield.
The Atlantic’s editorial distinction under Mr. Manning did not translate into profitability, and he encouraged Zuckerman to purchase the magazine in 1980. A series of questionable dealings on Zuckerman’s part, such as secretly seeking out a new editor in chief and refusing to pay more than a quarter of the agreed-upon purchase price of $3.6 million, enraged Mr. Manning. Zuckerman countered that the magazine’s perilous financial condition had been kept from him.
Mr. Manning left the magazine at the end of that year, and a suit brought by him and the Atlantic’s previous owners dragged on for seven years. In two separate rulings, Zuckerman was ordered to make the agreed-upon payments. Asked once what lesson he had learned from the experience, Mr. Manning replied: “One, get your money up front. Two, expect that whatever deal you feel that you might have struck, once the papers are signed, the negotiations will commence.”
The Atlantic’s owner, David Bradley, moved the magazine to Washington in 2006.
Mr. Manning was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and his clubs included the Tavern, St. Botolph, and Century Association. He was president of the St. Botolph Club from 1988-1990 and for many years a regular at its weekly poker game. At the Tavern Club, he participated as both writer and actor in its theatricals.
“Even with his limited formal education, he was one of the most cultured and thoughtful persons I’ve known,” Daly said.
His first wife, Margaret (Raymond) Manning, died in 1984. A two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, she was for many years book editor of The Boston Globe. Mr. Manning married Theresa M. Slomkowski in 1987.
In addition to his wife, he leaves two sons, Brian of Paris; and Robert G. of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and four grandchildren. His son, Richard, died in 2004.
A “party” — the term her husband used, said Theresa Manning — will be held in his memory at the St. Botolph Club in the spring.
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.