John R. Allen, Post editor who specialized in layout, Washington Star Sports Stringer, dies at 69

John R. Allen in Barcelona in 2012. (Photo by Christine Colby)
John R. Allen, a Washington Post editor who in 34 years with the newspaper helped design the layout of stories on Page One as well as pages in the Metro, Style and Sports sections, died May 31 in Manhattan. He was 69.

His wife, Jo Rector Allen, said he was stricken with symptoms consistent with a pulmonary embolism or a heart attack. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause. An Arlington resident, he was on vacation when he died at a hotel.

Mr. Allen joined The Post in 1969 as a copy editor, and he retired in 2003 as deputy news editor. His career spanned an era of change in the technology of producing a daily newspaper, the evolution of hot type to cold type and the use of computers to produce a printed paper.

Ed Thiede, a Post news projects editor, wrote in an announcement that Mr. Allen “helped guide the newspaper from the days of paste-up and black-and-white images through the launch of electronic pagination and color photography and into the days when the Metro section was zoned three ways every day.”

John Robert Allen was born in Omaha on Nov. 27, 1945. He grew up in Arlington, where he graduated from Yorktown High School and was a high school sports stringer for the former Washington Star newspaper. He attended Duke University.

In the late 1960s he served two years in the Army as a clerk-typist at Fort Benning, Ga. He told friends that his agility on the typewriter keyboard saved him from being sent to Vietnam at a time when typists were scarcer than riflemen. Later he worked for the Army Times.

At The Post, Mr. Allen regularly worked nights, weekends and holidays, often participating in the selection and placement of Page One stories.

In retirement he took cooking classes and tested recipes for The Post’s Food section. He did scuba diving in Australia, Indonesia and Croatia, among other places.

His first marriage to Patricia Smith ended in divorce. He was the companion for 22 years of Jo Rector, a former Post editor, before they married in 2003.

Attribution: Bart Barnes, 

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