James S. (Jimmy) Pope Sr., 85, a retired executive editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Louisville Times and past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, died Dec. 13 at a nursing home in Panama City, Fla., after a stroke. He had lived in Panama City since 1962.

He was president of the ASNE from 1954 to 1955. Before that, he had served three years as chairman of the society's committee on freedom of information. During these years, the square-jawed Mr. Pope gained renown as a tenacious and eloquent fighter for press freedom.

His battles, learned and reasoned, pitted him against seemingly everybody from the President of the United States and assorted members of both houses of Congress, to county clerks and sheriffs. His office became a clearinghouse for all who fought for information.

He adapted the practice of personally writing to each public official against whom complaints were made, outlining his understanding of the facts and explaining just why he found the official's actions unjust. His letter, on an ASNE letterhead, often removed obstacles that had resisted the best efforts of editors of small local publications.

In recognition of his work for press freedom, he was given a number of awards. These included the 1952 Elijah Lovejoy Fellowship from Colby College, the 1956 John Peter Zenger Award of the jounalism school at the University of Arizona, and a news achievement award from Sigma Delta Chi, the national journalistic honor society.

Mr. Pope was a native of Zebulon, Ga., and attended Emory University. He began his journalism career with the Atlanta Journal in 1926. He rose from reporter to city editor, assistant managing editor and managing editor before moving to Louisville in 1940.

From 1940 to 1952, he was managing editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, then spent a decade as executive editor of both the Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times. He retired in 1962.

Survivors include his wife, the former Geraldine Logan of Panama City; three sons, James S. Jr., of Louisville, Jerry L., of Minneapolis, and Logan M., of Los Angeles; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.