Robert A. Alden, a Washington Post news and layout editor for 48 years who helped design the inside pages of the newspaper’s first section, died June 7 at his home in McLean, Va. He was 87.

The cause was complication from Alzheimer’s disease, his wife, Diane Alden, said.

Mr. Alden retired from The Post in 2000. His career included the design and layout of newspaper pages containing stories, photographs and headlines about happenings that ranged from routine procedures of local governing boards to airplane crashes, natural disasters and historic events including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974.

On busy nights, the page designs and layouts had to be changed several times to keep up with fast-breaking events.

Mr. Alden was also president of the National Press Club in 1976, and he was a co-founder of the National Press Foundation, which supports educational programs for journalists. He was among the early advocates of the admission of women to press-club membership, which came about in the 1970s.

Mr. Alden had lived in McLean since 1953 and saw it evolve from a rural community of dairy cows and farms into a bustling suburb of shops and expensive houses. He was a longtime civic activist who helped plan McLean’s downtown, including a park and community center. The 386-seat community theater is named in his honor.

Robert Ames Alden was born in Washington on Feb. 5, 1933, and he spent part of his childhood in Rocky River, Ohio. As a high school student, he worked part-time at the Cleveland Press from 1947 to 1951 as a writer and reporter.

Returning to Washington after high school, he was a statistician at the Office of Price Stabilization before joining The Post news staff in 1952.

While working at the paper, he attended George Washington University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1965 and a master’s degree in history in 1968.

In 1958, he married Diane Heidkamp. In addition to his wife, of McLean, survivors include four children, William Alden of Princeton, N.J., Thomas Alden of Manchester, Vt., Jennifer Alden of Chesterfield, Va., and Martha Alden of Reston, Va.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.