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Jack Gallivan, longtime Tribune publisher, dies at 97

Published October 4, 2012 7:24 am

Activist • He helped build the Salt Palace, pave the way for the 2002 Olympics and the Utah Jazz, house the homeless, bring faiths together and put Utah on tourism map.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's hard to imagine what Salt Lake City would be like without the influence of Jack Gallivan.

The longtime publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune, who died Tuesday at age 97 of causes incident to age, played significant roles in bringing the Utah Jazz and the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. He also helped raise Utah tourism into a blockbuster industry and saw the eventual legislative approval of liquor-by-the-drink, 40 years after his initial impassioned efforts to make that happen.

Gallivan led very public campaigns, and sometimes privately used his influence with governors and tycoons, church leaders and civic activists. Right up to the end of his life, Gallivan sought to lift the downtrodden by putting the homeless in homes. He even had a hand in preserving The Tribune's historic rival, the Deseret News.

John W. "Jack" Gallivan, whose name is memorialized by the popular community square in downtown Salt Lake City, brought generations of Utahns into "The Tribune family" by sponsoring such community events as the popular Tribune No-Champs tennis tournament, the Old Fashioned Fourth of July at Lagoon, the Concours d'Elegance antique car show at the University of Utah and Tribune-sponsored ski races in Park City.

During his reign, The Tribune began an annual Sub for Santa program, as well as Newspapers in the Classroom and, for a time, sponsored the "Inquiring Editor" weekly television show in which high school teams competed by answering questions about the news in The Tribune.

Gallivan's interest in community involvement began when Publisher John Fitzpatrick named him promotions manager of The Tribune and its evening counterpart The Salt Lake Telegram in the late 1930s.

"Fitzpatrick believed, and I was taught to believe, that The Tribune had to become a part of every household," Gallivan said in a 2005 interview. "So we had activities for every member of every household so as to involve the whole community so that The Tribune was the family's newspaper and that is what it was all about."

But Gallivan, who rose to Tribune publisher and president of Kearns-Tribune Corp. upon the death of Fitzpatrick in 1960, was most proud of his role in making Utah an international tourist destination.

Gallivan unabashedly used the influence of the newspaper's editorial pages to push for an $18 million bond to build the Salt Palace. He lined up government leaders behind the plan, then went to LDS Church President David O. McKay to get his blessing and to make the deal for 9 acres the church owned to build the proposed convention center and sports arena.

Gallivan told LDS leaders that if they could arrange for a sale or lease of the land, the Salt Palace could be used as an extension of Mormon conferences, where the proceedings could be broadcast by closed-circuit TV. McKay agreed to lease the land to Salt Lake County for $1 a year.

"The church literally gave us those acres," Gallivan said, "and with that blessing, the donation of the land, we won the bond election by a two-thirds majority."

Salt Lake City and County officials have since credited Gallivan with the building of the Salt Palace and with the subsequent arrival of numerous hotels in downtown Salt Lake City, increasing the number of hotel beds from 700 before the convention center was built to about 17,000 today.

They also credit the Salt Palace for the city's ability to land a minor-league hockey team, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, and, in the early 1970s, a professional basketball franchise, the Utah Stars, of the old American Basketball Association, which went on to win an ABA crown in 1971. Those ventures paved the way for the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association about a decade later. The Jazz played in the Salt Palace for more than a decade before owner Larry Miller built and moved the team to what now is EnergySolutions Arena.

Gallivan and The Tribune editorial page again played an integral part in another bond, years later, to expand the Salt Palace into what would be a site capable of serving as the nerve center during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The publisher did not get McKay's approval for another of his passions, again backed heavily on The Tribune's editorial page: to change Utah's alcohol laws to allow liquor-by-the-drink. The issue, from Gallivan's point of view, was tourism. Out-of-state visitors expected to be able to have a drink. His efforts helped persuade enough people to sign a petition to put the question to the public as a ballot initiative.

But when McKay publicly bucked the idea, Gallivan recalled, "I knew it was dead."

It was one of several initiatives The Tribune supported that died either at the ballot box or in the Legislature. Gallivan was a strong advocate of a streamlined, reformed system of government throughout the county. But his efforts to unify Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County governments, and later to consolidate the cities within the county, failed. In fact, the reverse has occurred in an effort to create wall-to-wall cities in the county. If Millcreek voters go along in November, that east-side community will become the county's 17th city.

Gallivan once joked that if you wanted to defeat an issue, get The Tribune to endorse it.

He used the same self-effacing manner to explain why, during his tenure, The Tribune stopped its custom of endorsing presidential candidates. Because the Kearns family, longtime Tribune owners, had always been Republican, the newspaper usually endorsed GOP candidates. So, in 1960, "I just automatically endorsed the Republican candidate, who was Richard Nixon," Gallivan said.

"After I discovered what a horrible mistake I had made, I vowed that as long as I was publisher, The Tribune would never endorse a candidate again."

Born June 28, 1915, in Salt Lake City, and a 1937 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Gallivan — and his life — reflect Utah's evolution from a mining economy to one in which tourism became a primary financial driver.

Gallivan's mother, Frances Wilson Gallivan , died when he was 5. He was reared by Jennie Judge Kearns, his aunt and the widow of Sen. Thomas Kearns, a silver-mining magnate who bought a stake in The Tribune in the early 20th century. The Kearns family maintained ownership of the newspaper for nearly 100 years.

In 1938, Gallivan married Grace Mary Ivers, the daughter of another mining pioneer, James Ivers, and his legacy became even more tied to Park City mining.

By the 1960s, the mines were struggling, and Park City was dying economically, even though the locals boasted of having great snow and terrain for skiing. Dining with his good friends, Gov. Calvin Rampton and Utah Adjutant Gen. Max Rich, Gallivan had an epiphany.

"It was over a bottle of Jack Daniels before dinner," he recalled in an interview. "I bemoaned the fact that we were losing our shirts to the ski business in Colorado. We knew we had the greatest snow on Earth, but nobody else did and we didn't have the money to promote it."

That night, the idea to make a run for the Winter Olympics was hatched. That undertaking, the three men decided, would publicize to the world Utah's skiing riches.

"But I made him [Gallivan] promise we wouldn't get it," Rampton told The Tribune before he died in 2007. "And he assured me we wouldn't."

Gallivan was part of a delegation that traveled to Rome in 1966 to pitch for the Winter Games. As promised, Utah didn't get the bid, but that set the stage for subsequent efforts, which finally rewarded the state with the Olympics in 2002.

Another, lesser-known, part of Gallivan's legacy was the deep friendship he had with the late LDS President McKay.

The newspaper had been founded in the 1870s by excommunicated Mormons called the Godbeites to serve as a "gentile" alternative to the LDS Church-owned Deseret News.

By the time Sen. Kearns, a Catholic, took over The Tribune, relations between the two Salt Lake City papers were strained, and sometimes they would openly attack each other on their respective editorial pages.

The rift continued until Publisher Fitzpatrick, reasoning such a war with the state's dominant religion was not beneficial, forged a lasting friendship with then-LDS President Heber J. Grant. That friendship continued through the presidency of McKay in the 1950s and '60s.

In the early 1950s, with Fitzpatrick in the hospital and the Deseret News badly in debt after a failed advertising blitz to boost circulation, Gallivan, McKay and Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce President Gus P. Backman visited Fitzpatrick in his hospital room.

They convinced the publisher that it would be best for everyone if they took advantage of the recently passed Failing Newspaper Act by Congress and created a joint-operating agreement in which the two papers would share the costs and responsibilities of circulation, production and advertising, through a third company, the Newspaper Agency Corp., while the editorial and newsroom duties would remain separate and competitive. The deal ended up being profitable for both papers, which were once bitter cultural and economic enemies.

Gallivan, through all his deeds, has received numerous honors, including the Salt Lake Chamber's prestigious Giant in Our City award.

He spent a lifetime forging understanding among the various religions in Utah and was one of the founders of the Utah Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He was chairman of the committee that oversaw the restoration of Salt Lake City's Cathedral of the Madeleine.

Besides his career at The Tribune, Gallivan had many business leadership successes. He served as president of the Silver King Mining Co., secretary and director of KUTV and vice president and director of TeleMation, a video and film production company. He was one of the pioneers of the cable television industry and helped launch Tele-Communications Inc., where he served as vice president.

Gallivan was still active in bettering the community well into his 90s, when he directed his passion toward helping the homeless. He co-founded Crusade for the Homeless for which he raised funds through charitable donations and lobbied the Salt Lake County Council for assistance. His efforts resulted in the Grace Mary Manor, named after his late wife, which opened in 2008. A second facility, the Sunrise Apartments, brings to 184 the number of permanent housing units available for the chronically homeless due to his efforts.

"Having their own apartments means people who are homeless don't have to worry about where they're going to sleep," Gallivan told the Intermountain Catholic in 2008. "It's very different from shelter living. It gives them self-respect, which makes it easier for them to seek rehabilitation."

This Gallivan quote, which was read during a ceremony in which he received an award from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, sums up his legacy:

"Our task is to make all of Utah as beautiful in man-made additions as it is in God-given wonders; beautiful in the maintenance of the good life; beautiful in social equality and justice; beautiful in the brotherhood of mankind." "Jack was not only a great newspaperman, but a consummate and reliable gentleman. We had controversies and arguments, and he was a fierce competitor. But he was always gentlemanly, fair and gracious."

Bill Smart, former executive editor, Deseret News

"He gave a lifetime for the common good. He was a dear friend of my father's and a dear friend of mine. I will miss him terribly as will this entire community."

— Tony Rampton, attorney and son of former Gov. Calvin Rampton

"The long life he lived is an example of hard work and dedication in making Utah a better place. He is an icon in this state."

— Gov. Gary Herbert

"Jack was a great friend and mentor. Perhaps no one in the 20th Century did more to build and unite Salt Lake City. I loved and respected him immensely."

— Jon Huntsman Sr., industrialist and philanthropist

"His influence has been felt in so many aspects of life in our state from the distribution of the news in Utah to the Olympic movement. His good works will be felt by many for generations to come."

— Sen. Orrin Hatch

"Our community will long remember Jack Gallivan as a man who compelled us to reach a higher standard than we were capable of meeting alone. He was the conscience of the community."

— Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor and Health and Human Services secretary

"His impact is truly legendary. He was a true visionary."

— Lane Beattie, president, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce

"Right until the end he was working hard to make sure our community helped and served the needs of the disadvantaged."

— Peter Corroon, Salt Lake County Mayor

"He was a very genteel and gentle giant. He was a big man in Salt Lake City, yet he was very humble and always concerned about the individuals who worked at The Salt Lake Tribune."

— Mike Korologos, former deputy editor, Salt Lake Tribune

"For many years Jack was the most influential force in our community. He was the driver behind many of the important issues and for change for good in our community."

— Kem Gardner, developer and community leader

"I think Jack and Grace Mary personify the heritage of Utah in terms of dedication to pragmitism, idealism and social involvement. There was nobody better who could tell a good story than Jack Gallivan."

— Pat Shea, attorney and activist

"He, to his everlasting credit, involved himself directly, through community leadership, partnerships and organizations, in campaigns and projects created to both safeguard and advance the city's and the state's prominence and progress."

— Harry Fuller, former chief editorial writer, Salt Lake Tribune