James M. Newmyer, leader of prominent D.C. PR firm, dies at 91

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 11, 2010; 5:22 PM

James M. Newmyer, 91, who helped lead one of Washington's most venerable public affairs and government relations firms, a low-profile family business whose heavyweight clientele was the envy of many competitors, died Dec. 10 at his home in the District. He had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Newmyer worked with his brother, Arthur Newmyer Jr., and their father to start Newmyer Associates in 1943. The two brothers worked as equal partners over the next four decades and made the now-defunct business one of the city's most respected suppliers of information on political and regulatory news and trends.

Their clients - many on the Fortune 500 list - included Ford, IBM, Exxon, Citibank, AT&T, CBS, Gillette, International Nickel, Consolidated Foods and the credit reporting company Dun & Bradstreet.

The Newmyers neither lobbied nor generated press releases for clients. Arthur Newmyer Jr. once told The Washington Post, "I think if Ford wants to express a view around here, they can do it a hell of a lot better by having Henry Ford do it than me trying to do it."

Instead, Newmyer Associates' office - for years on K Street - was staffed with many veterans of journalism and government service who reported on developments in pension regulations, labor relations, antitrust laws and consumer affairs.

The firm provided strategic advice for clients and also counseled executives on their testimony before Congress and regulatory agencies.

The Newmyer siblings retired about 20 years ago, and the firm later merged with another consultancy.

Mr. Newmyer said clients often asked for seemingly arcane but vital information, and the secret to achieving that goal was cultivating friendships and contacts in government and media.

"There's no reason you can't have it," he said of the material a client might seek. "It's not confidential. It's not a disclosure. It's just that no one else has asked for it. And when you live here and work here as long as we have, no matter how dumb you are, you sort of learn over a period of time where to ask for things."

James Morton Newmyer was born Nov. 16, 1919, in New Orleans. His father, Arthur, was a longtime executive for Hearst newspapers. The family settled in Washington in the mid-1930s.

"Jimmie" Newmyer, as he was widely known, was a 1937 graduate of the private Sidwell Friends School in the District, where he captained the tennis team and, decades later, chaired its board of trustees. The school's Newmyer Award honors distinguished voluntary service at Sidwell.

In 1941, he graduated from Yale University's Sheffield Scientific School, now called Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science. He served in the Navy in the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II.

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