The pivotal era of the mid-1960s through 1980s proved halcyon days for newspapers.
Among the events: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Vietnam. The formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. The 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Apollo 11 and the first moon walk in 1969. Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. The oil and energy crises of 1973 and ’79. The 1979-’81 Iran hostage crisis. The 1980 riots in Miami. The 1980 assassination of John Lennon. The overthrow of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986. The growth of personal computers. The 1989 Savings and Loan crisis.
Jim Renbarger was business manager and treasurer of the Miami Herald through these events, ultimately serving as chief financial officer until his retirement in 1990. He was brought to the paper in 1964 as controller from the St. Petersburg Times by former St. Pete colleague Alvah Chapman Jr. who, at the time, was assistant to Herald general manager James L. Knight.
Renbarger died June 1 at 81 at his home in Homosassa Springs where he moved with his late wife Irene after his retirement.
“Jim was a smart, warm and caring person. Along with General Manager Beverly Carter and Advertising Vice President John Kosanke, he led the business side of the Miami Herald during some of its best days,” said Joe Natoli, chief financial officer for the University of Miami.
“Jim hired me as the Herald’s controller in the mid-’80s. I always look back on that as one of the big breaks of my career. He was willing to hire someone who had not run an accounting department into a key line job,” Natoli said.
Renbarger was born in St. Petersburg and grew up fishing and playing along the river, a lifestyle he would return to after his corporate life. He served in the Korean War as Cpl. Military Police through 1953 and took a job working in the mail room at the St. Pete Times. He earned a Poynter Scholarship and graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelors in accounting in 1961.
Renbarger returned to the Times in accounting. After Chapman brought him to the Herald, Renbarger worked alongside James L. and John S. Knight and played an instrumental role in taking Knight Newspapers public in 1969.
“The Miami Herald was the love of his life, next to his family,” said son Stan Renbarger, who met his wife Kathy while both worked at the Herald in classified advertising in the late ’80s. He is now director of sales and business development at media delivery company, Valassis, in Louisville.
“He believed in what newspapers stood for and it was in his blood,” Renbarger said. “There is a culture in that industry that is found nowhere else and dad was part of that culture.”
Renbarger, who served on the board of directors at the Children’s Home Society, is survived by sons Stan and Jay, daughter Karen, and grandchildren Steven, Kristen and Nicolette. A private burial will be held July 1 in St. Pete.