Loretta Ann Barrett of Manhattan and Quiogue died from complications of a brain tumor on October 4. She was 74.
Ms. Barrett was born on July 1, 1940, in Mount Vernon to Edward V. and Irene Wynne Barrett. She grew up in Pennsylvania and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She also received a Master of Arts degree from UPenn through a grant from the Ford Foundation and, as an active alumna, was most recently a trustee on the Council of Penn Women.
Ms. Barrett began her career as a high school history teacher. As part of an experiment in the Philadelphia public schools, she was selected and placed as the only white teacher in an all-black high school, an experiment in which she flourished. She worked tirelessly helping her students gain acceptance into college and became known for taking students on field trips to the city’s cultural institutions.
In 1967, Ms. Barrett was hired as an editor in the Anchor Press division of Doubleday and Company in New York, where she developed quality non-fiction books for minority readership. In 1968, she marched in the funeral procession of Dr. Martin Luther King. In 1970, at age 30, she testified before Congress on racism in textbook publishing. That same year, she was promoted to editor-in-chief of Anchor. She expanded the editorial boundaries of Anchor far beyond the quality paperback reprints it was known for, encouraging and supporting her editors to develop original hardcover front-list titles. The first New York Times hardcover bestseller was Ms. Barrett’s “The Managerial Woman.” In 1980, she became an executive vice president at Doubleday for the general trade group and, while she had edited the novels of John A. Williams for years, only then did she turn her eye to fiction and launch the careers of several novelists, most notably Sue Harrison and Dani Shapiro.
In 1990, Ms. Barrett thought it was time to strike out on her own, founding the literary agency Loretta Barrett Books, Inc. Her long list of clients included Betty White, Ray Kurzweil, Mariah Stewart, Janet Leigh, Christopher Kennedy and Roni Cohen Sandler, to name a few. A highlight of her life was meeting Pope John Paul II at the Vatican with her client, George Weigel, who was his authorized biographer.
Ms. Barrett served on the board of directors of Reading Is Fundamental for 32 years, most recently as secretary. In 2011, the organization honored her volunteer efforts, reporting that she was personally responsible for an estimated three million new books being given to poor American children to keep as their own.
Ms. Barrett is survived by two sisters, Irene M. Barrett of Manhattan and Quiogue, and Merrily Stilwell of Pennsylvania; two brothers, Edward V. Barrett and wife Janet Levy of Manhattan, and James W. Barrett and wife Lilibet of Pennsylvania; and seven nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held on Thursday, May 7, in Manhattan.