CLINTON — A former Clinton Herald publisher, who oversaw the transition of the newspaper as it was sold from family to corporate ownership in the 1980s, has died.
Robert Evans, 80, whose career with the Herald spanned nearly 30 years, died Friday in Florida. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“Bob’s leadership in our community and our newspaper in the 1970s and 80s helped create the community we know today. His contribution to our newspaper came at a critical time of innovation in the newspaper industry that enabled the Herald to compete with larger newspapers,” said Herald Publisher Ron Gutierrez. “We are sad to hear of his passing.”
A Rockford, Ill., native, Evans had a long career with the Herald, joining the family owned newspaper in August 1960. After gaining experience in the administrative, circulation and mechanical departments, he was named co-publisher and production manager in the fall of 1962. His administrative duties were expanded in 1965 when he was named co-publisher and general manager.
In 1967, he was named president and publisher following the death of his father-in-law, Courtland Young Hancock. He was at the helm of the newspaper when it created CHTV, which was on the air from 1982 to 1985, and also when the newspaper was sold in 1986 to the Donrey Media Group, a sale he negotiated and that marked the end of the W.J. Young family’s 80 years of Herald ownership.
That history goes back to the early 1900s, when the W.J. Young Co. purchased the Herald and brought it to stability; succeeding generations of the family maintained control. Robert’s former wife, Elizabeth Hancock Evans, was in the fourth generation of the W.J. Young and the daughter of Courtland and Elizabeth Hancock, who were killed in the 1967 automobile accident.
In July 1985, the Clinton Herald was split off from the W.J. Young Co., with the Elizabeth Evans family acquiring total ownership of the newspaper. In a special Herald publication announcing the sale in 1986, it was noted that Elizabeth Evans and her children made the decision to sell the newspaper to Donrey Media Group. Robert stayed on as general manager until retiring to pursue other interests in 1989. The Herald was sold to CNHI in 1998.
During his time with the Herald, Evans served as president of the Iowa Daily Press Association and on the Clinton Chamber of Commerce and the Clinton Airport Commission, and with the Clinton Area Development Corp., the United Way and the Advisers’ Board of Mount St. Clare College. He was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, the National Journalism Board and on the board of directors of Clinton National Bank. He also was one of the founders of Clinton Cable TV and had interests in other local businesses throughout the years as well as various real-estate holdings.
Throughout his retirement years, Evans still had occasional contact with the newspaper and authored a foreword in the Clinton Herald history book “Once Upon a Time, Volume 1” that was published in 2004.
“I have always loved Clinton,” he wrote. “It was a great place to raise my children and it is a nice small town on the Mississippi River that is conveniently located next to larger cities. Throughout the history of Clinton, the Clinton Herald has played a role in capturing events for posterity.”
Lynne Darr, CHTV news anchor, news director and a retired Clinton Herald business editor, describes Evans as innovative.
“Bob was ahead of his time,” she said. “He was an excellent businessman and looked to the future and, in regard to that, he saw the potential of local television. ... He took great pride in the product.”