Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Journalist Pat Murphy dies at 82

Ketchum resident’s noted media career spanned 6 decades


Pat Murphy, who finished an illustrious career in journalism working for the Idaho Mountain Express, loved the Wood River Valley. He rarely traveled away from the region, often asking, “Why would I want to leave paradise?”. Express file photo.

Pat Murphy, a distinguished lifelong journalist who finished his career at the Idaho Mountain Express, died Saturday at a Boise hospital. He was 82.

In a media career that spanned some 60 years, Murphy worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and publisher, as well as a radio broadcaster and freelance writer. After criss-crossing the globe covering stories such as the 1970s energy crisis and the first Gulf War, Murphy worked for 13 years as a part-time reporter and columnist for the Idaho Mountain Express.

From 1986 to 1989, he was well known as the tenacious publisher of The Arizona Republic, a metropolitan daily newspaper published in Phoenix. The Republic published a lengthy news story Sunday highlighting Murphy's role as an influential civic leader in Phoenix.

Phoenix resident Bill Hogan, general manager of The Republic when Murphy was publisher, told the newspaper that he admired Murphy for his skilled writing.

"He was always writing crisp and to the point," he said. "His writing skills never diminished with age. He was a terrific writer, a great journalist and a really fine man."

Pam Morris, publisher of the Express, said Murphy played a critical role in highlighting issues of local, national and international concern.

"At the Express, we were privileged to be able work with Murphy for 13 years," she said. "He mentored us not by telling, but by doing. His everyday quest was for facts, clear thinking and bold writing.

"He brought honor to his profession, his family, the communities he influenced, and this nation, which he defended when he put his life on the line in the Korean War. We miss him deeply and will never forget him."

Career began in military

Lorenzo Dow "Pat" Murphy Jr. was born July 28, 1929, in Miami, Fla. He graduated from Gordon Military College, in Barnesville, Ga., and attended the University of Miami (Fla.) before entering the U.S. Army in 1948. His media career started in 1950, when he became a combat correspondent in the Korean War. He was with the first military units to cross the 38th Parallel and the first units into the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Service Medal with four battle stars and the United Nations Medal.

In 1952—after he was discharged from the Army as a sergeant first class—Murphy joined The Miami Herald, Florida's largest newspaper. Over 20 years there, he worked as a reporter, photo editor and assistant city editor, then editor and publisher of Herald-owned suburban newspapers, the Coral Gables Times and The Guide.

In 1972, he became editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic. In March 1986, he was named publisher of The Republic and The Phoenix Gazette, then the nation's 17th- and 18th-largest morning and evening newspapers.

Murphy resigned as publisher in August 1989 and went into radio. He broadcast commentaries and hosted radio talk shows on Phoenix ABC affiliate KTAR. During the 1990-91 Gulf War, he reported from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for Phoenix radio and television stations.


A 'quintessential' news man

After moving to Ketchum in 1997, Murphy stayed active in journalism. He was a regular columnist for the Idaho Mountain Express and served on the newspaper's editorial board. He also worked as a part-time reporter for the Express, and, for a period, the Times-News of Twin Falls. While with the Express, he won numerous awards from the Idaho Press Club for column and editorial writing.

Murphy's regular column was put on hold last spring while he underwent cancer surgery. He died from complications of that surgery.

"Pat was the quintessential news hound," said Idaho Mountain Express Editor Greg Foley, who worked with Murphy the last 10 years. "He was constantly on the prowl for stories and tips. I suppose someone of his stature could have retired quietly, but not Pat. He was writing columns for us right up until the day he left for the hospital."

Murphy was an active advocate of news organizations and freedom of the press. He lectured on press freedoms at the Salzburg Seminar in Salzburg, Austria, along with Katharine Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Co., and other media executives. He testified before congressional committees on First Amendment issues for the American Society of Newspaper Editors and American Newspaper Publishers Association, and was once interviewed for "60 Minutes" on CBS television.

Reported from around the world

Murphy reported from the Caribbean and South America, from Berlin on construction of the Berlin Wall, and visited Saudi Arabia numerous times as a newspaper reporter and broadcaster. He developed an interest in the Middle East as one of the first U.S. journalists to enter Saudi Arabia after the 1973-74 oil embargo for an exclusive interview with then-King Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

In his long career, he wrote for The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News.

Subjects of his interviews included entertainers such as Elizabeth Taylor, Wayne Newton and Ava Gardner; U.S. presidents Truman, Ford, Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush; international figures such as Britain's Prince Philip, the late Dominican Republic dictator Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo and Haitian strongman Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier; news media personalities Walter Cronkite, Hugh Downs, Katharine Graham and Larry King; political figures Sen. Barry Goldwater, Sen. John McCain and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; scientists, corporate executives, military commanders, and U.S. and Russian astronauts.

Murphy is survived by his wife, Betty Murphy; two daughters, Patti Lynn Murphy, of Boise, and Kathy Carson, of Ketchum; and a grandson, Cassidy Carson.

"Pat was the most interesting person I ever met," Betty Murphy said Monday. "We dated for only 10 days, then fell in love, got married and spent the next 57 years together. I will miss him until the day I die."

A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

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