WHEN JOHN H. KAUFFMANN became the chief executive of The Washington Star 11 years ago -- following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather -- he shared his family's longstanding desire to produce a quality newspaper with a proud tradition of service to and in this community. But Mr. Kauffmann, who died Tuesday at the age of 54, took over a paper in a precarious financial position. Try as he did to preserve the family interest in The Star for the next six years -- struggling all the time to boost advertising and circulation, purchasing the Washington Daily News -- the family finally gave up control after more than a century.
But the story of that struggle does not say it all about Jack Kauffmann.The exuberance, charm and energy with which he conducted a love affair with this, his native city is another part of the story. Name a charitable organization, a community-improvement project or any professional effort to improve the state of journalism around the country -- and he was likely to be involved and enthusiastic. On countless occasions his good humor would rescue factions from protracted debates at meetings of civic organizations. As a result of those activities, Mr. Kauffmann helped make many of the decisions that were to shape the metropolitan area in the 1960s and 1970s.
In fact, his ultimate decision to sell the controlling interest in The Star and its other properties reflected Mr. Kauffmann's desire to keep the newspaper alive in and for the community -- for it would have been more profitable to him and others to have shut the paper down. But Jack Kauffmann, always our worthy competitor across town, held true to his belief that this city needed at least two quality newspapers, and he did all he could to make that a reality. For that, and for all his other efforts on behalf of people and causes, he will be remembered with fondness by Washingtonians. We who had the privilege of knowing him both professionally and as a friend are proud to be among that company.