David R. Dear, a newspaper editor and publisher who later was president of two publishing and communications companies, died Feb. 22 at his home in Potomac, Md. He was 86.

The cause was coronary artery disease, his son Stephen Dear said.

Mr. Dear came to Washington in 1967 when he became president of Dear Publication and Radio upon the death of his brother. The Washington-based, family-run communications firm published 26 newspapers at its height and owned radio stations and other businesses, primarily in the South and Midwest.

The company was sold to Thomson Newspapers in 1986. Mr. Dear later launched Dear Communications, which published weekly newspapers in McLean, Great Falls and Arlington County. The papers were sold in 1996.

David Reid Dear was born in Jersey City, where his father was publisher of the Jersey Journal newspaper, which his family had owned since 1867.

Mr. Dear joined the Navy at 17 and was a veteran of World War II. After the war, he returned to New Jersey and completed high school.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania before moving in 1952 to Elizabeth City, N.C., where he was circulation manager of the Daily Advance newspaper, which his family owned. He became editor and publisher of the paper in the 1960s and, according to his son, encountered local resistance for covering the civil rights movement.

In Washington, Mr. Dear was a past vice president of the National Press Club and a charter member of the National Press Foundation, which promotes training and opportunities for journalists. His other memberships included the White House Correspondents’ Association and the old American Newspaper Publishers Association.

He was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Margaret Regan Dear of Potomac; four sons, David R. Dear Jr. of Sandy Hook, Conn., the Rev. John Dear, a Catholic priest in Cerrillos, N.M., Brian Dear of La Jolla, Calif., and Stephen Dear of Carrboro, N.C.; two brothers; and three grandchildren.

— Matt Schudel