Fred P. Pettijohn, the former vice president and editorial director of the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel and a giant among South Florida journalists, died at his home in Tallahassee on Wednesday (Oct. 1, 2008) night.
He was 91.
In a 30-year career as a newspaperman, Mr. Pettijohn earned a reputation as a dedicated community leader, an exacting editor and a good-humored man with an abiding interest in the well-being of his friends and of those who worked for him.
Above all, he was a journalist who never lost his love of writing or his profession, which he said he decided on in the eighth grade after becoming a reporter for a mimeographed classroom publication called “Ye Weekly Snooze.”
Mr. Pettijohn and his wife Elaine lived in Fort Lauderdale for 50 years, raising two sons while playing a major role in the development of the area’s civic and cultural establishment.
The couple moved to Tallahassee in 2003 to be near their sons.
Elaine Pettijohn died in April at the age of 87.
“He was a man I could turn to for advice, opinions, knowledge of area, the kind of guy there if I needed anything ,” said former Sun-Sentinel editor Gene Cryer. “He was always gracious, low key, a delight to be around.”
Born in Baltimore, Mr. Pettijohn was raised in Tallahassee.
His first paying newspaper job was as assistant sports editor for the Tallahassee Democrat; he made $6 a week.
He continued to write for the paper while attending the University of Florida.
After graduating in 1941, Pettijohn joined the Army airborne artillery and served in Burma, China and India during World War II.
Mr. Pettijohn said he felt a calling to become a journalist soon after he began to write.
“After a year, I thought this is really what I want to do,” he recalled in a 1999 interview for the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.
“I talked to my father about it and he said, ‘Well, I am sure it is interesting, but I can tell you now, you will never make any money in the newspaper business.'”
Mr. Pettijohn’s South Florida newspaper career began in 1953 when he was hired as sports editor at the Fort Lauderdale News. He became managing editor the following year.
After the Tribune Co. bought the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel in 1963, Mr. Pettijohn held several executive positions and retired in 1982 as editorial director of both dailies.
He was named to the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1990.
His distinguished legacy of South Florida newspapering includes the Sun-Sentinel‘s annual awards for editorial excellence, which bear his name.