Col. Barney Oldfield (U.S. Air Force, retired), 93, journalist, publicist,
philanthropist and writer who founded the Radio-Television News Directors
Foundation, died April 26 in Los Angeles.
Oldfield (no relation to the race-car driver of the same name) was saluted
for his accomplishments April 9 during the RTNDF luncheon in Las Vegas.
As chairman of the Radio-Television News Directors Association finance and
fund-raising committee in 1967, he launched an effort to endow a
That effort became the RTNDF, which awarded its first scholarship in 1970 and
now awards 22 scholarships, including one in Barney's and wife Vada's name for
In 1994, the RTNDF established the "Barney Oldfield Distinguished Service
Award" for contributions to its success.
With the caveat that this is a veteran public-relations man's autobiography,
Oldfield, born in Tecumseh, Neb., Dec. 18, 1909, began his adult working life
driving stakes for Barnum & Bailey and spikes for the B&O Railroad to
help put himself through the University of Nebraska.
More relevant jobs were newspaperman and theater usher. He would combine the
latter two later as movie reviewer for the Lincoln Journal (including
contributions to Variety) from 1930 through 1940. During that time, he
also had his own radio show, Hollywood Highlights, on KFOR[FM] Lincoln,
He was once cited in Ripley's Believe It or Not for having seen every
movie released in 1936 and 1937 (more than 500).
During World War II, Oldfield was a PR officer, serving as a press aide to
numerous generals, including Eisenhower and Bradley, and to Field Marshal
He was also a pioneer in "embedding" journalists in wartime. As an ROTC
graduate and paratrooper, he helped to line up journalists willing to accompany
paratroopers during the Normandy invasion and organized mobile press units to
cover the army's march though Europe.
His book, Never a Shot in Anger, told of the military's effort to
After the war, he joined Warner Bros. as a publicist before being called back
to active duty.
After an appearance on Groucho Marx's game show, You Bet Your Life, in
the mid-1950s, Oldfield and his wife decided to fund a $1,000 scholarship with
his winnings of just over $1,000. They were told they needed $25,000 to endow
that $1,000 scholarship.
Following appearances on several other game shows later, plus speaking fees
and book royalties, the pair had begun a philanthropic journey that would lead
to more than 100 such scholarships, including the RTNDF.