Jim Klobuchar Dies at 93, Minnesota Newspaperman and Amy’s Father

Jim Klobuchar Dies at 93, Minnesota Newspaperman and Amy’s Father

Jim Klobuchar was a noted sports journalist and general interest columnist in Minnesota for decades.

He was celebrated for his Derring-Do directly from the central casting: He once held a piece of chalk between his lips while a sniper was aiming at it. He was a finalist for NASA's initiative to send a journalist into space until the 1986 Challenger explosion ended the program. He climbed the Matterhorn eight times and Kilimanjaro five times.

And he made readers cry when he wrote of a 5-year-old girl with a brain tumor who loved to ride on rails: “She was cradled in her mother's lap on the Hiawatha observation car on Milwaukee Road, a decent young lady . A dying little girl making her last train ride. "

It wasn't until 2018 when his daughter, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, mentioned him during the controversial television hearings about Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court that he caught nationwide attention.

During her interview with the candidate, Ms. Klobuchar found that her father, then 90, was a recovering alcoholic who was still attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She asked Judge Kavanaugh if he had ever drank so much that he couldn't remember events. He turned the question back to her, a violation of propriety for which he later apologized. She accepted the apology, adding, "If you have a parent who is an alcoholic, you are pretty careful about drinking."

By then, her father had been sober for more than 25 years. When she ran for the 2020 Democratic President nomination, Senator Klobuchar often spoke of his successful treatment and suggested spending billions of dollars on substance abuse treatment.

Mr Klobuchar died Wednesday in a care facility in Burnsville, a suburb of the Twin Cities. He was 93 years old. Senator Klobuchar, who announced his death on Twitter, gave no cause but said he had Alzheimer's. He survived a fight with Covid-19 last year.

Mr. Klobuchar was long popular in Minnesota, even a folk hero. In addition to his newspaper columns – 8,400 of which when he retired from The Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1995 – he wrote 23 books, ran a women's soccer clinic, hosted talk shows, and ran Jaunt with Jim annually for nearly four decades. Cycling around the state, stopping at payphones along the road to call his column and dictate. After he and his first wife, Rose (Heuberger) Klobuchar, divorced in 1976, he and Amy began long distance cycling tours to bond with each other.

As a young journalist for The Associated Press, he had a particularly exhilarating moment the day after the 1960 presidential election, when John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon were neck to neck and three states were not yet reporting results. Mr. Klobuchar wrote the statewide bulletin announcing that Mr. Kennedy Minnesota had won and gave him enough votes to win the presidency. The bullet appeared in newspapers across the country.

James John Klobuchar was born on April 9, 1928 in Ely, a small town in the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, where he grew up. His father Michael Klobuchar worked in the iron ore mines. His mother Mary (Pucel) Klobuchar was a housewife.

From a young age, Jim read The Duluth Herald and his mother encouraged him to pursue a career in journalism, wrote Senator Klobuchar in her 2015 essay, The Senator Next Door.

He graduated from Ely Junior College (now Vermilion Community College) in 1948, then enrolled at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1950 with a degree in journalism.

He got a job as an editor at The Bismarck Daily Tribune. Six months later he was drafted into the army and assigned to a new psychological war unit in Stuttgart, where he wrote anti-communist material.

He briefly returned to the Bismarck newspaper and was then recruited by The Associated Press in Minneapolis, where he completed his election campaign. He joined The Minneapolis Tribune as a sports reporter in 1961 and focused on the Minnesota Vikings.

He left The Tribune in 1965 for the rival St. Paul Pioneer Press, but it wasn't long before The Minneapolis Star lured him away by giving him a column to write about anything he wanted.

This was the heyday of print journalism when newspapers sent their star authors all over the world. During the height of the Cold War, Mr. Klobuchar reported from Moscow. In 1978 he reported on the murder and funeral of Aldo Moro, Italy's former prime minister. He challenged pool hustler Minnesota Fats to a game. He wrote about a flight service that employed topless flight attendants. He played a reporter in the 1974 film "The Wrestler" with Ed Asner.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. He was suspended twice, once for writing a speech for a politician and once for writing a quote in a story he believed to be an overt satire.

He also drank too much, his daughter said in her book. For a while, heavy drinking was part of his colorful public role. Not much happened when he was charged with some alcohol-related driving offenses in the mid-1970s.

However, public attitudes towards drinking and driving changed radically. When he was arrested for driving under the influence in 1993, he lost his driver's license and was threatened with prison. He wrote a front-page apology to his readers. On an accompanying note, the newspaper's editor, Tim McGuire, said Mr. Klobuchar had "put life at risk" and that the newspaper was insisting that he seek treatment.

He followed. He entered an inpatient rehabilitation center, attended anonymous alcoholic meetings, and found God. Mrs. Klobuchar wrote that his readers had forgiven him.

"It was precisely his mistakes that made my father so attractive to her," she said. “His rough adult life and personal struggles had a huge impact on his writing. That's why he was at his best writing about what he called "the heroes among us" – ordinary people doing extraordinary things. "

In addition to Senator Klobuchar, another daughter, Meagan, survives; his wife Susan Wilkes; his brother Dick; and a granddaughter.

When he decided to retire from The Star Tribune in 1995, Mr Klobuchar told his office mates he didn't want any fuss just to go quietly. After packing his things and walking to the door, an editor got into the sound system and announced, “This is Jim Klobuchar's last day. That's 43 years of journalism. "

Everyone stood up and applauded.


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