James McClatchy, former newspaper executive, dies


SACRAMENTO (AP) – James Briggs McClatchy, former chairman of the board of McClatchy Newspapers and the patriarch of a prominent family of journalists, died Friday of complications from an infection following surgery, the company said in a statement. He was 85.

McClatchy was the great-grandson of a founding editor of The Sacramento Bee and the son of the founder and first editor of The Fresno Bee. They are part of a group of newspapers that has become the nation’s second largest with McClatchy Co.’s recent $4.5 billion purchase of Knight Ridder Inc.

“Jim was one of the great leaders of the McClatchy Company,” Gary Pruitt, the company’s current chairman and chief executive, said in a statement issued by the Sacramento-based company. “His contributions ranged from grand strategy to nuts-and-bolts decisions.”

Jim literally never stopped working to advance the traditions of independent, public service journalism.”

James McClatchy was born in Sacramento on Dec. 17, 1920, the eldest son of Carlos and Phebe McClatchy. He began his newspaper career in 1947 as a general assignment and education reporter for The Sacramento Bee. He later worked in the company’s Washington, D.C., bureau.

In 1980, he became chairman of the board. In 1987, his brother, C.K., became chairman, while James was named publisher of McClatchy Newspapers with responsibility for general corporate planning and acquisitions.

When C.K. McClatchy died in 1989, James again became board chairman. He was named publisher again in 1995 and retired last year.

Asked recently how he wanted to be remembered, McClatchy said, “Put down that I was a newspaperman.”

McClatchy is survived by his wife, Susan, sons William and Carlos McClatchy, his brother William and numerous nieces and nephews.

AP-ES-05-26-06 1749EDT