Former publisher, editor of the Herald-Leader, Tim Kelly passes away at 73

Tim Kelly

On the KPA Facebook Page, we have a story about the passing of long-time Lexington Herald-Leader editor and then publisher, Tim Kelly. So many former employees and friends commented about Tim in the story we reprinted from the Herald-Leader that I can’t begin to add to those comments.

But as you read what each said about Tim, I think you’ll realize just how much he was thought of. Even after he retired from the Herald-Leader, he kept in touch, and most of the time was to question exactly what the legislature was trying to do to newspapers, and the public, in the realm of public notices and Open Meetings and Open Records. He stayed up-to-date on the actions of the General Assembly, questioning their actions as much after he retired as he did when he was editor and publisher.

But I have one remembrance of Tim Kelly that shows he was so human.  A side of him that few people probably ever thought they’d see from a professional who had led his newspapers to multiple Pulitzer Prizes. Who was publisher of the second largest daily newspaper in the state and had worked for even larger dailies.

It was at the 2007 KPA Winter Convention at the Hyatt Regency in Louisville. Tim was attending not for any of the training we were offering, for he could have led most any one of those sessions. He was there because the Herald-Leader’s NIE coordinator Kriss Johnson was going to be installed as President of KPA at that day’s Changing of the Guard luncheon. That was Tim being Tim. Supporting his staff with pride.

Besides Alice Rouse turning the President’s gavel over to Kriss, we also had a speaker scheduled for lunch. Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, was our special guest.

Here’s the description from the convention program:

“Special guest Peter Yarrow, a member of Peter, Paul and Mary, the legendary 1960s folk music group, will entertain luncheon goers with his music. A performer and activist, Yarrow uses music to convey a message of humanity and caring, creating community and inspiring audiences to act on their convictions.

“Yarrow is a real fan of the newspaper industry’s NIE program and has performed at several NIE functions across the country. His most ambitious undertaking so far is a project called Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh at Me. It’s based on his belief that music, with the power to build community and serve as a catalyst for change, can be a powerful source of inspiration for children. His song, “Don’t Laugh at Me,” has become an anthem for the growing movement to build safer and more respectful school environments for children.”

Yarrow combined messages about literacy and the importance of newspapers with solo versions of some of the group’s best known songs.

But there was one song that got the entire crowd involved and no one enjoyed singing it more than Tim. As I looked across the table, I thought, “Here’s the publisher of the second largest newspaper in the state, who knows what it means and what it’s like to win more than one Pulitzer Prize,” singing “Puff, The Magic Dragon” as loud as he can. A huge smile crossed Tim’s face as the song ended and the audience gave its approval to Peter Yarrow.

I’ll long remember Tim. I may not remember all of the discussions we had about KPA, about the newspaper industry, and about the craziness of the Kentucky legislature. But I will always remember that day, watching Tim show his human side and so enjoying being with newspaper folks, from large dailies to small weeklies, and not too large a persona to sing “Puff, The Magic Dragon” along with everyone else.

Tim’s obituary is also published in today’s On Second Thought.

2 responses to “Former publisher, editor of the Herald-Leader, Tim Kelly passes away at 73”

  1. Keith R. Kappes says:

    Great piece about my friend Tim Kelly. Thanks, Dave

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