Chairman of the Board of Media General, John Stewart Bryan III, dies at 77
History of Media General dates back to 1850 with the founding of the Richmond Dispatch, media company entered TV business in 1955 when it launched WFLA-TV in Tampa
RICHMOND, Va. – January 24, 2016 — John Stewart Bryan III, Chairman of the Board of Media General, Inc., died here yesterday at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. Mr. Bryan was 77 years old. His death resulted from complications related to neck injuries sustained in a fall on January 15, 2016.
Mr. Bryan is survived by his wife, Lisa-Margaret Stevenson Bryan; his daughters Elizabeth Talbott Bryan Maxey of Palm Beach, Fla., and Anna Saulsbury Bryan (Stephen) Sullivan, of Wilson, Wyoming; five grandchildren, Tennant and Alice Maxey, and Pryor, Stewart and Harriett Sullivan; his sisters Mary Tennant Bryan Perkins of Richmond, Va., and Florence Talbott Bryan Fowlkes of Gordonsville, Va.; his sisters-in-law Susan Stevenson Badder of Baltimore, Md., and Sharon (Charles) Stevenson Griffith, of Pound Ridge, NY; four nephews, Bryan (Kathryn) Fowlkes, Nathaniel Badder, Cable (Jess) Griffith, and Alden (Katie) Griffith and their three children. He was predeceased by his parents, D. Tennant Bryan and Mary Harkness Davidson Bryan.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced in the Richmond Times-Dispatch obituaries.
During Mr. Bryan’s more than 50-year career in the local media business, he worked as a newspaper journalist, served as Publisher of four newspapers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond News Leader, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times, and rose to become Chairman, President and Chief Executive of Media General. Mr. Bryan believed strongly in a free press and was proud to call himself a “newspaperman.” He often said he “enjoyed almost every day” that he spent working in the media business. He was a true Southern Gentleman.
Mr. Bryan was born in Richmond on May 4, 1938. He was educated at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, the Episcopal High School in Alexandria (class of 1956), and the University of Virginia (BA in philosophy 1960). He served on active duty as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1960 to 1962, and went to law school at the University of Virginia for one year (1962-63).
He was elected to the board of directors of Media General in 1974, vice chairman and executive vice president in 1985, and chairman, president and chief executive in July 1990. In 2005 he relinquished his duties as publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and as chief executive of Media General, and continued to serve as chairman of the board.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Bryan held summer jobs in the mailing room and circulation departments of The Richmond News Leader from 1954-1957. He went to work full-time as an ad salesman for The Burlington (VT) Free Press in 1963, and as a reporter for The Tampa (FL) Times in 1965, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1967. He covered sessions of the Florida and Virginia legislatures in 1967 and 1968. He returned to Florida as vice president of The Tribune Co. in Tampa in 1968, became executive vice president in 1971 and was named publisher of The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times in 1976. He moved to Richmond in 1978 as president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Richmond News Leader. Those two newspapers merged in 1992.
He had been an active member of the boards of the George C. Marshall Foundation, Virginia Historical Society, and Bryan Brothers Inc. He was formerly a director or trustee of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, Newspaper Association of America, Associated Press, Virginia Press Association, Florida Press Association, United Press Advisory Board, Mutual Insurance Co. of Bermuda Ltd., Maymont Foundation, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Metropolitan Richmond Chamber of Commerce, University of Tampa Board of Trustees, University of South Florida Council of Advisors, Metropolitan Foundation, Leadership Metro Richmond, Valentine Museum, Episcopal High School, St. Catherine’s School, Virginia Commonwealth University Foundation, Virginia Council on Economic Education, The Denver Post, Foundation for American Communications, World Affairs Council of Greater Richmond, Hoover Institution of War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, College Foundation of the University of Virginia, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Florida State Chamber of Commerce, Florida State Fair, and University Club of Tampa.
Mr. Bryan served as chairman or president of Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, United Fund of Tampa, Tampa Bay Art Center, Tampa Citizen’s Safety Council, Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, Goodwill Industries of Richmond, Junior Achievement of Richmond, United Way of Greater Richmond, Newspaper Advertising Bureau, Florida Press Association, Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, and SNPA Foundation. He has served as campaign chairman of the Tampa United Fund and the Richmond United Way, and is a Founder of the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico.
He was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Advisory Board, the Commission of the Future of Florida’s Public Universities, and was vice chairman of the Virginia Higher Education Tuition Trust Fund Board. He was a member of the Country Club of Virginia, Commonwealth Club, Tampa Yacht Club, Nantucket Yacht Club, Bohemian Club, and Farmington Country Club.
He was awarded honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from Hampden-Sydney College, Emory & Henry College, College of William & Mary, and Randolph-Macon College.
Mr. Bryan was inducted as a laureate of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame and the Richmond Business Hall of Fame. He received the outstanding service award of the Florida Press Association, the lifetime achievement award of the Virginia Press Association, the Frank Mayborn Leadership Award of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, the George Mason Award for significant contributions to the advancement of journalism in Virginia from the Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter (SPJVA), and the medal of honor of the Daughters of the American Revolution. He and his wife, Lissy, received the deTocqueville Award of the United Way of Greater Richmond.
The Bryan Family and Media General History
The history of Media General dates back to 1850 with the founding of the Richmond Dispatch, a predecessor to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In 1887, Joseph Bryan acquired the Daily Times and subsequently additional newspapers. His son, John Stewart Bryan, joined him in the newspaper business and was publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The News Leader from 1908-1944 and president of Richmond Newspapers, Inc., from 1940-1944. Upon his death in 1944, his son, David Tennant Bryan, succeeded him as publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The News Leader. His son, J. Stewart Bryan III, succeeded him as publisher in 1978 and as chairman of the board of Media General in 1990.
Media General entered the television business in 1955 when it launched WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida, as an NBC affiliate, and the company also had radio stations in Richmond and Tampa. Richmond Newspapers, Inc. became a public company in 1966 and the company changed its name to Media General in 1969. After that, the company grew for many years through acquisition of newspapers and television stations, principally in the Southeast. Media General was an early pioneer of the digital media business and in 1994 The Tampa Tribune launched an Internet online service called Tampa Bay Online. With the proliferation of new technology, the business continued to evolve and change. In 2012, Media General implemented an historic transformation of its business when it sold the vast majority of its newspapers to World Media Enterprises, Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Following the sale, the company has focused on local broadcast television and digital media. In 2013, Media General combined with Young Broadcasting and increased its number of stations from 18 to 31. In 2014, Media General combined with LIN Media and increased its number of stations from 32 to 71. A full history of Media General and the Bryan family is available on the company’s website www.mediageneral.com under “About Us – History.”