Newsrooms can be noisy, contentious places. But editor Bob King never lost his cool.
King came to the Minneapolis Star as an editorial writer in 1965 and quickly ascended to assistant managing editor, managing editor, then editor.
“He set a tone that was positive, kind and decent,” said retired Star Tribune executive Kent Gardner. “He left more good feelings behind than many leaders do.”
In 1974, King was put in charge of the newspaper’s advertising department. “He was the only one who ever made that cross-department move,” said Charlie Hoag, former vice president/director of sales for the Star Tribune. “They were trying to cross-pollinate executives with potential, and he was uniquely qualified to cross over” because of his business background.
King’s sense of fair play stood out in the advertising world of the ’70s. “Bob was respectful of women and of diversity. He was ahead of his time,” said Hoag. “He was the epitome of Minnesota Nice.”
King, 88, died Sept. 29 in a Bloomington care facility.
He was born in Minneapolis, graduated from Shattuck Military Academy and earned a degree in speech from the University of Minnesota. He met his wife of 60 years, Arlene, while both worked for a Minneapolis debt-collection agency. They married in 1955 and soon moved to Morris, Minn., where King managed the Chamber of Commerce, then to Fergus Falls for a similar job. But King also loved to write. In 1962, he switched to journalism, becoming editor of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.
“He was a magnificent writer,” said his daughter Mary Boldenow, of Eden Prairie.
As an editorial writer, King wrote in-depth pieces about a range of issues, including the prevention of drunken driving. And as editor, he penned a weekly column offering background on controversial stories and how they were covered.
“I learned a lot from him about the use of words, the power of words,” said his son Bob King Jr., of St. Paul. His father wrote poems — “doggerel, he called them” — including birthday poems for family members.
There were stressful times for the family during King’s news career, King Jr. recalled. “There was a pressmen’s strike. I remember him going in the middle of the night, risking bodily harm because he was crossing a picket line, to work the presses and keep the paper coming out.”
In 1983, King made another career switch, to executive vice president and then president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, where he created a job for a young R.T. Rybak to work on increasing downtown development. Under King’s watch, the council launched the weekly farmers market on Nicollet Mall and also planted the seeds for the downtown Target store, according to Rybak.
“I grew up a lot, working for Bob,” said Rybak, who went on to serve as mayor. “I admired his patience, something I never quite mastered. He had a very good, kind way of telling an overeager reckless person to tone it down a notch. He taught me that I didn’t have to blurt out every idea I had at every moment.”
Rybak also admired King’s fairness and decency. “Everybody in the room knew he had the best motives, and he seemed to have no hidden agendas. What you saw was what you got.”
King continued his upbeat, gregarious ways into retirement. “He was really funny,” Boldenow said. Even with dementia, “he kept his sense of humor up until a few hours before he died.”
Other survivors include daughter Kathy Koehler, Eden Prairie; sister Kappy King Cole, Fla.; nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Services have been held.