September 24, 2023

This obituary is part of a series about people who died from the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Jeffrey Paley was a reporter for The New York Herald Tribune when the newspaper closed in 1966. Determined to become a columnist in Europe, he had no news agency to write for. So he got in his car, drove north-east, and stopped at the newspapers to see if they’d like to pick up his column.

Dozens of them – papers in Quincy, Mass., Allentown, Pa. And elsewhere – did. Based in Paris, he wrote about world affairs and economics, made typed copies of his column with carbon paper and sent them to his customer papers, some of which said he was their “special correspondent”.

Journalism was only the first of three careers that Mr Paley pursued, the others being art gallery owners and private investors.

He died of complications from the coronavirus in a Manhattan hospital on February 27, said his wife Valerie Paley. He was 82 years old.

Mr. Paley was born in Chicago on August 11, 1938. That year he was adopted by William S. Paley, founder and chairman of CBS Inc., and his father’s first wife, philanthropist Dorothy (Hart) Hearst. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1947 and soon afterwards William Paley married the glamorous Barbara Cushing Mortimer, known as Babe.


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Jeffrey grew up in the whirlwind of high society, mostly in Manhattan, and graduated from Harvard with a degree in English in 1960. He attended Columbia Law School for a year before moving to Europe, where he first worked for Granada Television and wrote the scripts for Coronation Street, the longstanding British soap opera. He then worked as a news editor and writer at The International Herald Tribune in Paris.

He later traveled extensively as a columnist in Paris, including India, where he began collecting Indian miniatures, small paintings that often illustrated religious and secular texts. His collection was exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum in 1974.

He also developed an interest in showing art. Inspired by the creative possibilities of the old industrial lofts in the SoHo district of Manhattan, he bought a building on Wooster Street in 1969 and founded the Paley and Lowe Gallery there. As one of the earliest exhibition spaces in the neighborhood, it featured young artists, especially women, including Pat Steir, Mary Heilmann, and Mia Westerlund Roosen.

To support the artists, he started investing in the stock market and exercised his interest in the economy. In 1976 he received his Masters in this field from the New School and developed a third career as an independent private investor in the stock market.

A brief early marriage ended in divorce in 1969. Mr. Paley later married Valerie Ritter; Now Dr. Paley, she is senior vice president and chief historian of the New York Historical Society.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Paley survives a son, Austin; one daughter, Elianne Paley; a sister, Hilary Califano; his stepsisters Joy Hirshon Ingham and Amanda Burden; a step-brother, Stanley G. Mortimer 3rd; a half-brother, William Cushing Paley; and a half-sister, Kate Cushing Paley.

In his later years he devoted himself to issues of civil liberties and climate change and maintained a second home on Nantucket. Dr. Paley said her husband felt alone for much of his life and valued the family they had started.