Erwin Potts, former journalist and chairman of McClatchy Co., dies at 85 – Sacramento Bee
Erwin Potts, who spent his early career as a newspaper reporter and editor and eventually became the first non-family member to lead McClatchy Newspapers as it grew into a national media company, died this week in Mexico.
Potts joined Sacramento-based McClatchy in 1975 as director of newspaper operations and retired in 1996 as chairman of the board of directors.
Pottsâ family announced Thursday that he had died of injuries suffered in an accident at his home in Cabo San Lucas. He was 85. An El Dorado Hills resident, Potts lived for several months each year in Mexico.
Friends and colleagues expressed their regard for the man who was credited with expanding McClatchy from a group of largely California-based newspapers to one of the nationâs major newspaper companies.
âErwin was a wonderful man who was dedicated not only to the McClatchy Co., but also the McClatchy family,â Kevin McClatchy, chairman of the board, said in a written statement. âHe took the reins of this company during a tumultuous time, after my fatherâs passing, and was instrumental in driving McClatchyâs growth during that period. He will truly be missed.â
Potts was born in Pineville, N.C., on April 20, 1932. He grew up in Charlotte and earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began his newspaper career in 1954 at the Charlotte Newsin North Carolina, before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1955 to 1958 as a legal officer, administrative and personnel officer, and a supply officer.
After his dischargefrom the Marines, Potts worked for several newspapers in Florida. He served as the city editor and later as assistant managing editor at The Miami Herald.
In 1970, Potts became the general executive of Knight Newspapers in Miami. Later that year, he was named vice president and general manager of the Tallahassee Democrat. From 1973 to 1975, he was vice president and general manger of Knight Publishing Co., publishers of the The Charlotte Observer.
Gregory Favre, former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for The McClatchy Co., recalled that he and Potts were competitors in the 1960s, then became colleagues at McClatchy in the 1980s.
âHe was a great boss, a wonderful mentor and a dear friend,â Favre said. âHe was a business-side person who was a journalist at heart. He understood the newsroom like few people in that position do.â
Potts also served in on the boards of a number of professional and community organizations, including the Newspaper Association of America Board of Governors, Stanford Universityâs John S. Knight Fellowships Board of Visitors, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Sacramento Regional Foundation.
Larry Jinks, former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, served on McClatchyâs board of directors after retiring from Knight Ridder. Jinks said he knew Potts for 57 years, since the two were young reporters.
âHe was very energetic,â Jinks said. âHe was bound to succeed and, of course, he did. He was kind of a natural manager.â
Jinks described Potts as a leader who âmade big decisions well.â
Pete Dexter, a former columnist at The Sacramento Bee, said he and Potts became good friends, particularly after Dexter left The Bee.
âIâve never been anybodyâs favorite in management … I know I was an annoyance to him,â Dexter said, but the two developed a bond.
âIf you wanted to know something about the business world, you could find out by hanging around him,â Dexter said. âThere was a mind there that comes along once in a lifetime.â
Potts is survived by his wife, Silvia, of El Dorado Hills; sons Jeffrey Potts of Folsom and Matthew Potts of Santa Cruz; and four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Bryan.
Pottsâ sons said they were impressed with their fatherâs integrity and the many friendships he developed.
âHe was old school,â Jeffrey Potts said. âHe raised us in a way that many people arenât raised today. He held us accountable for our actions.â
Services are pending.