In this particular case, I would consider including "the" as more appropriate for both an encyclopedic entry as well as a non-fiction book describing the history, while dropping "the" could be defended as appropriate for a news article (especially in the intro or news brief).
As per @snailplane's comment, this is an example of "false title". The word "false" in this case may itself be something of a misnomer since it reflects a bias that this usage is "bad" or "improper" in some absolute sense.
More accurately, dropping the article "the" is simply a method of describing someone in terms of a pseudo-title, which may be good or bad, proper or improper, clear or ambiguous, and all depending on the usage and the intent of the writer. This is an issue of style, and the question of whether or not it needs the article "the" depends on style, consistency, clarity, and intended audience.
General, educational prescriptive texts on English grammar indicate the use of "the" as more formally correct in this case. However, news communications - especially headlines and news in brief summaries - will often drop articles and other non-essential elements; however, care must still be used to insure the sentence or sentence fragment remains unambiguous.
Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_title http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalese