People Remembered: Seymour Topping

The OPC is saddened to learn that longtime OPC member Seymour Topping, a veteran foreign correspondent and editor who cut his teeth during China’s civil war at the end of the 1940s, died on Nov. 8 at the age of 98.

After serving as a United States Army infantry officer in the Pacific during World War II, Topping joined The Associated Press in 1948, where he covered conflicts in China and Southeast Asia. He joined The New York Times in 1959, where he served as chief correspondent, foreign editor and managing editor in Moscow and in Southeast Asia for more than three decades. He was assistant managing editor, deputy managing editor and managing editor from 1969 to 1986, when he was appointed director of editorial development. He retired from the paper in 1993, becoming the San Paolo Professor of International Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and an administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes until his retirement in 2002.

A New York Times obituary chronicles his career here.

Toping wrote about his experiences in On the Front Lines of the Cold War: An American Correspondent’s Journal from the Chinese Civil War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam.

In 2014, OPC Past President William J. Holstein spoke with Topping along with his wife Audrey Topping for an archival video memoir filmed and edited by their daughter, Lesley Topping. Watch the videos via the windows below. Scroll down for links to watch and read more about his other OPC appearances. You can also watch a playlist of video clips with Topping here.

Seymour Topping and Audrey Topping – Part 1

OPC Foundation President William J. Holstein talks with Seymour Topping, journalist and author, and Audrey Topping, photojournalist and author, about China and Vietnam. OPC producers: Sonya Fry, Bill Holstein;
Video & Editor: Lesley Topping

Seymour Topping and Audrey Topping – Part 2

Seymour Topping and Audrey Topping talk about their stint in Moscow in the early 60s, including the Cuban missile crisis and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, as well as interviewing Fidel Castro and American foreign policy. OPC producers: Sonya Fry, Bill Holstein;
Video & Editor: Lesley Topping



Seymour and Audrey Topping attend the OPC Awards Dinner in April 2011. Photo: Michael Dames

Seymour Topping, left, and Roy Rowan spoke during an OPC event to discuss the Chinese civil war at the Women’s Republican Club in October 2013. Photo: Sonya Fry

OPC Past President Larry Smith, left, with Seymour Topping during an OPC Book Night in March 2010, to discuss “On the Front Lines of the Cold War.” Photo courtesy of Sonya Fry


In 1970, Topping participated in a series of interviews with members of the press to support journalism curriculum at the University of California, Berkeley on The State of the Press. Professor Stern inaugurated the broadcast journalism, documentary and photography programs at Berkeley.

In April 2011, he spoke at an event to mark the release of a new book Roy Rowan.

In October 2013, Topping discussed his experience covering China’s civil war during an OPC event.

In January 2014, Topping spoke at an OPC storytelling event, recalling his experience covering the split between China and the Soviet Union.

In December 2016, Topping spoke at an OPC “Hong Kong Night.”

In February 2016, Topping spoke at a day-long OPC event with Russia hands to discuss the country’s past and future. His remarks from that day are archived here.