Saturday, July 13, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Robert Chandler, Prominent Editor Of Small Ore., Calif. Newspapers


BEND, Ore. - Robert W. Chandler, for four decades one of the nation's most prominent small-town newspaper editors, died yesterday of prostate cancer. He was 75.

Mr. Chandler started his career in newspaper publishing in 1953, buying The Bulletin in what was then the sleepy central Oregon mill town of Bend.

Over the years, he expanded the operation into Western Communications Inc., which at the time of his death owned eight daily and weekly newspapers. including The Bulletin, The Observer of La Grande, The Baker City Herald and The Triplicate in Crescent City, Calif.

Gruff, outspoken and a firm believer in the independence of the press, Mr. Chandler served in numerous professional and civic posts during his long career. He was a commercial-rated pilot who flew between his far-flung business enterprises until diabetes grounded him.

Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., described Mr. Chandler as an intellectual with passion.

"We cheered together when we agreed on a political matter, and we discussed Oregon history when we didn't. Through all of our years, we preserved and treasured our friendship," Hatfield said.

At his instruction, Mr. Chandler is to be cremated and his ashes scattered over the Three Sisters Wilderness Area.

Although he oversaw a small newspaper empire, Mr. Chandler never listed himself with a title other than editor of The Bulletin. He continued to write editorials for the paper nearly up to the time of his death.

His newspapers helped many aspiring journalists through college, then gave them jobs.

Mr. Chandler was born in Marysville, Calif., on May 12, 1921, and grew up on the family's farm near Yuba City. He earned a degree in journalism from Stanford. He was in the Army during World War II, serving in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, Korea and Japan. He was a special agent in the Army's Counter Intelligence Corps.

He worked at weekly newspapers in Burney and Fall River Mills, Calif., before joining the staff of The San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Chandler also worked as a reporter and bureau manager for United Press in Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Boise, and Helena, Mont.

He was the Republican nominee for Congress in the 2nd District in 1962, losing to incumbent Democrat Al Ullman.

Mr. Chandler served two terms on the board of directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and three terms on the board of the American Press Institute. He was a Pulitzer Prize juror, a member of the Nieman Fellows selection committee and national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation's largest journalism organization.

Mr. Chandler was a senior fellow of the Freedom Forum media-studies program at Columbia University, where he developed a process for mediating disputes between news organizations and their news sources.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Nancy. The couple had six children. Chandler is survived by his second wife, Marjorie, a brother, a sister, and four stepchildren.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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