Ex-Miami Herald Chief Chapman Dead at 87

Alvah H. Chapman Jr., the former Miami Herald president/CEO and civic leader who helped building the modern city there has died at 87.

It happened on Christmas Day in Miami, and he was with his family. He was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and had suffered strokes in recent years.

After arriving in Miami in 1960, his former paper observed today, “He evolved into a devoted and energetic champion of his adopted hometown and became the unifying force behind scores of civic endeavors — from housing the homeless to sculpting downtown Miami’s contemporary appearance to leading We Will Rebuild after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.”

He once said, ”You can’t publish a successful newspaper in a community that’s dying on the vine. If you want a successful company that’s involved in the community, and a newspaper certainly is that, then you have to contribute to that community’s success, too.”

An excerpt from today’s Herald article follows:

Chapman came to Miami as company patriarch John S. Knight’s executive assistant, quickly moving up the ranks to become The Herald’s general manager and president. From 1976-1989, he was CEO and chairman of Knight Ridder, its now-defunct corporate parent….

After retiring as Knight Ridder’s chairman in 1989, he remained on the board of directors and objected loudly when chairman P. Anthony Ridder announced in 1998 that he was moving the company’s headquarters from Miami to San Jose, Calif.

Chapman said it was just plain wrong — Knight Ridder belonged in South Florida.

”Miami has been a great corporate home for Knight Ridder for more than 30 years,” Chapman said at the time. “The symbolism is unfortunate.”

He sought legal advice, but was told he had no case….

Former Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr. said Chapman “cared deeply about good journalism, but insisted that it couldn’t be good journalism if it wasn’t fair. . . . Sometimes what we wrote made his civic-leadership life a bit more complicated, but he always chose the side of fact-finding and truth-telling.”