Alvah H. Chapman Jr., the former publisher of The Miami Herald and chairman of the Knight Ridder newspapers and one of South Florida’s most influential philanthropic and civic leaders, died on Thursday at his home in Miami. He was 87. Mr. Chapman died of pneumonia, said his son-in-law Bob Hilton. He had been ill in recent years with Parkinson’s disease, had suffered several strokes and had broken a hip in March. A newspaperman whose father and grandfather had owned and published newspapers in Florida and Georgia, Mr. Chapman led The Miami Herald and its parent, the Knight Ridder chain of more than 30 newspapers, from 1976 to 1989. Earlier, he had been an innovative general manager of The St. Petersburg Times and publisher of The Savannah Morning News and Evening Press in Georgia. Since 1960, when he joined the Knight organization in Miami as an assistant to James L. Knight, Mr. Chapman had over the years become a leader of civic causes in South Florida, taking on scores of tasks, including a $2 billion renewal of downtown Miami, a campaign to rebuild South Miami-Dade and Homestead after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and fund-raising for children, the poor and the homeless. At various times, he was chairman of the Florida Philharmonic, president of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, president of Goodwill Industries of South Florida and campaign chairman for what is now the United Way. He led the Orange Bowl Committee, Miami Citizens Against Crime, the city’s Coalition for a Drug-Free Partnership and a committee to build the Miami Performing Arts Center. He was also chairman of the Florida International University Foundation. The university named its graduate business school after him in 2001. Mr. Chapman became president of The Miami Herald in 1969, chief executive of Knight Ridder in 1976 and chairman of the media company, then based in Miami, in 1982. He had helped to orchestrate the merger of Knight Newspapers and Ridder Publications in 1974, the biggest transaction of its kind at the time. During his tenure as head of Knight Ridder, corporate revenues tripled, the company’s newspapers won 33 Pulitzer Prizes and it obtained Justice Department approval for a joint operating agreement between The Detroit Free Press, owned by Knight Ridder, and its chief competitor, The Detroit News, owned by Gannett. He was a courtly man, acquaintances said, remarkably soft-spoken for one who measured his time, got things done on schedule and demanded high standards of subordinates. Tall and athletic, passionate about golfing, boating and fishing, he was always well organized — and kept those around him organized, too. “When we went boating or fishing as a family, everyone got a three- or four-page description of our duties,” Mr. Hilton recalled on Saturday. “There were certain times for things to get done, and we knew it. Frankly, it made things all the more enjoyable. Even when we went fishing, we knew exactly where we were going.” Alvah Herman Chapman Jr. was born on Mar. 21, 1921, in Columbus, Ga., where his family owned the R. W. Page Corporation, which operated The Ledger-Enquirer and other newspapers. When he was 5, his father, Alvah Sr., was named publisher of The Bradenton Evening Herald, and the family moved to West Central Florida. In high school, Mr. Chapman was a top student, played quarterback on the football team and was editor of the student yearbook. He was voted “most dependable” by his classmates, and spoke on Commencement Day in 1938. As a teenager, he also worked at his father’s newspaper, proofreading the Sunday editions on Saturday afternoons and returning early Sunday to count out newspapers for carriers. He also had a paper route, and on election nights sold soft drinks to crowds that gathered to read the results on a sheet draped from the second floor of City Hall. “I liked every part of the newspaper business,” he recalled. At the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina in Charleston, he learned martial discipline, leadership and the knack of budgeting time in a regimented atmosphere — counting the minutes to march to dinner and the hours of homework each evening. He graduated in 1942. (The Alvah H. Chapman chair in business management at the Citadel was endowed in 1989.) In 1943, he married the former Betty Bateman. In addition to his wife, Mr. Chapman is survived by two daughters, Chris Hilton, of St. Petersburg, and Dale Webb, of Miami; a sister, Wyline Sayler, of St. Petersburg; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. During World War II, Mr. Chapman enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a B-17 bomber pilot. He flew 37 missions over Europe and by the age of 23 was a squadron commander in charge of 29 planes and hundreds of men. Two of his four engines caught fire on one mission, but he brought the plane and crew home safely. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and a presidential citation. After the war, he joined the family business. His father had returned to Columbus to run The Ledger-Enquirer, and he took a job with the paper, eventually rising to business manager. In 1953, he left to become executive vice president and general manager of The St. Petersburg Times, where, with the approval of its legendary publisher, Nelson Poynter, he introduced profit-sharing for employees and the then-novel idea of measuring the performance of workers. In 1957, he became publisher of the morning and evening newspapers in Savannah, Ga., and a part owner of Savannah Newspapers. When that organization was sold three years later, he moved to Miami and joined Knight, which owned four publications and had annual revenues of $60 million. As the executive assistant to Mr. Knight, the company’s patriarch, he moved quickly up the ranks. Mr. Chapman sometimes opposed his own newspaper on issues. He unsuccessfully supported a proposal to build an amusement park on an island in Biscayne Bay, a project opposed editorially by The Herald. Long after his retirement, he continued his associations with South Florida civic and cultural causes. After Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, President George H. W. Bush asked him to organize a task force to rebuild the devastated areas. The result was a community-business partnership called We Will Rebuild. The name came from Dollie Buxton, whom he encountered on the porch of her wrecked home in West Perrine, south of Miami. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “We’re going to rebuild,” she replied. Originally published in The New York Times: 12-28-2008 Tags: 1942

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