Donald H. Patterson Self-effacing publisher: A lifelong Sun man, he ran business and let editors decide content.

December 03, 1997

TO MEET Donald H. Patterson was to like him. He never failed to be kind, considerate and self-effacing. He never took himself too seriously. But he always undertook with total seriousness the task of making The Sun a great newspaper.

He was literally born into The Sun. His father was the legendary Paul C. Patterson, who did so much to establish the

newspaper's reputation for excellence. Father and son both served as publisher, Donald's tenure coming from 1979 through the end of 1981. Those were difficult years as the newspaper underwent a costly plant expansion with new presses and technology changes in the face of soaring newsprint prices and double-digit inflation.

Yet Donald Patterson never flinched from the challenge. He'd been honed at The Sun to know the newspaper business inside-out -- as maintenance manager, as coordinator of the move from Sun Square on Baltimore Street to the current Calvert Street building, as production manager, as general manager and ultimately as publisher and president of the A.S. Abell Co., which also owned WMAR-TV.

As publisher, he was an editor's dream. He never interfered. He believed in delegating responsibility to newsmen and tending to business-side details himself.

This was never more evident than in 1978, when the editorial page editors of The Sun and The Evening Sun drove down to Mr. Patterson's Annapolis home to inform him that the two editorial boards unanimously urged the early endorsement of a long-shot candidate, Harry R. Hughes, for governor. The publisher listened and without hesitation told them, "Go ahead, if you think he is the best man. Do it." Mr. Hughes won in one of the biggest upsets in Maryland electoral history.

Donald Patterson died yesterday at the age of 81. He had his share of health problems. But he never stopped believing in the good that a newspaper can do for its community. And he never stopped believing in the great traditions of The Sun that he did so much to foster.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.