THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, June 25, 1995 TAG: 9506250054 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: FROM WIRE REPORTS DATELINE: MIAMI LENGTH: Medium: 94 lines
James K. Batten, chairman of newspaper giant Knight-Ridder Inc. and one of journalism's most prominent and respected leaders, died Saturday after a battle against brain cancer.
Batten, a native of Suffolk, Va., was 59.
Devoted to public service, faithful to high principle and to his colleagues, Batten served his community and his profession, his family and his friends.
A consummate newspaperman, he gave some thought during his illness to what his epitaph might be. This was what Jim Batten settled on: ``He took care of his family.
He took care of his company.''
``Jim's death is a grievous loss - for his family and many friends, for Knight-Ridder and for the larger journalistic community that he loved so very much,'' said P. Anthony Ridder, president and chief executive officer of Knight-Ridder Inc. ``At his core, he was a journalist, one who believed passionately in the good that can come from a strong, free and prosperous press.''
Batten was no relation to Frank Batten Sr., chairman of the board of Landmark Communications, which owns The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star.
Last September, a few months after his illness was diagnosed, Jim Batten summarized his approach to newspapering - and, perhaps, his approach to life.
``Loving our communities, warts and all, is not something most of us were taught growing up in the newspaper business,'' he said. ``But getting close to your community and your readers is an essential part of the job.''
Batten loved his community, warts and all. And he was never far from his readers. His stature among Miami's diverse ethnic communities was evident after he was involved in a car accident in October 1993, a crash later attributed to a seizure brought on by the cancerous tumor in his brain.
Within two hours of the accident, more than a dozen local leaders gathered outside the hospital's emergency room, awaiting word on his condition.
The brain tumor was discovered last June during an examination to investigate severe headaches Batten had been enduring. It was removed July 1 during seven hours of surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. The tumor was malignant.
Batten underwent radiation and chemotherapy to suppress lingering cancer cells. In the end, the tumor returned; the cancer could not be defeated.
He died at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he had been in intensive care since suffering a serious seizure about two weeks ago.
During his 20 years in South Florida, Batten helped lead efforts to recover from Hurricane Andrew, fight crime, heal racial and ethnic divisions and diversify the community's leadership.
Growing up in the peanut country of Suffolk, Batten fully intended to follow in the footsteps of his plant-pathologist father.
But, in an early harbinger of the future, he published a neighborhood newspaper for family and friends. He studied chemistry and biology at Davidson College, and found time to edit the school newspaper during his senior year.
Batten began his career in 1957 as a cub reporter at Knight-Ridder's Charlotte Observer. He stayed at the Observer for several years, interrupted by a tour of duty with the Army Chemical Corps and a yearlong leave to earn a master's degree in public affairs at Princeton University.
In 1965, he joined the company's bureau in Washington, covering George Wallace's political campaigns, Dr. Martin Luther King's struggle for racial equality and the Ku Klux Klan's terrorist activities in the South.
He also served as assistant city editor at the Detroit Free Press. In 1972, he was named executive editor of the Charlotte Observer, a move he thought would be his last.
Just three years later, Knight-Ridder executives persuaded Batten to join the company's corporate staff in Miami.
In 1982, he was named president of the company. Six years later, he became Knight-Ridder's chief executive officer. In 1989, Batten became chairman.
Batten relinquished the title of chief executive officer earlier this year as he battled cancer, but he retained the title and duties of chairman.
Batten's survivors include his wife, Jean, their children, Mark, Laura and Taylor, and their two granddaughters. Other survivors include his mother, Josephine, of Holland, Va., and his brother, Robert, of Atlanta.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables.
A private family service will be held Tuesday in North Carolina. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be sent to Miami Partners for Progress, an organization dedicated to providing economic opportunities for minorities in Dade County. Donations can be sent in care of Holland & Knight, 701 Brickell Ave., Suite 3000, Miami, Fla., 33131. MEMO: Knight-Ridder News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this
ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
Suffolk native James K. Batten died after a battle with cancer.