Howard H. “Tim” Hays, the much honored former editor, publisher and chairman of the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, CA, and founding member of the First Amendment Coalition, died October 14 in St. Louis. He was 94.
“Tim was a rarity, a man whose moral compass was set on true,” Mel Opotowsky recalled in a Press-Enterprise article. “That is especially important as a newspaper owner because of the obligation as a public trust. There are many instances of Tim’s beneficence, not only to his employees, but to his readers and to principles of quality journalism.” Opotowsky, a FAC board member, helped found the open government organization along with Hays for whom he worked as the P-E’s managing editor.
Hays was born in Chicago on June 2, 1917, and moved with his family to Riverside in 1924. He graduated from Stanford University in 1939 and earned his law degree in 1942. During World War II, he spent several years as a special agent for the FBI.
A Harvard Law School graduate, Hays passed the bar in 1946 but never practiced law: The same year, he became an assistant editor at what became the Press-Enterprise under his father, Howard H Hays Sr., who was editor and co-owner.
Hays became editor in 1949, and ultimately spent 51 years at the Press-Enterprise.
During his tenure the newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service in 1968 for a series of more than 100 stories, written mostly by reporter George Ringwald, and related editorials, that exposed malpractice in the conservatorship program for Agua Caliente Indians in Palm Springs.
In the 1980s, the newspaper’s openness-in-government crusade resulted in separate Supreme Court rulings that are now commonly referred to in First Amendment cases as Press Enterprise I and Press Enterprise II.
In the first, in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the public has a presumptive right to observe jury selection. In the second, in 1986, the court ruled 7-2 that the public has a right to view pretrial hearings, after a judge closed more than a month of preliminary hearings in another murder case.
At a 1997 retirement dinner for Mr. Hays, Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham said that Mr. Hays was “one of the great, principled editors of his generation … one of his generation’s foremost advocates of the First Amendment.”
Survivors include wife Susie Hays of St. Louis, sons Bill Hays of Corona Del Mar and Tom Hays of New York City, and brother Dan Hays of Riverside. His brother, William H. Hays, died earlier this year. Mr. Hays’ first wife, Helen Hays Yeager, died two years earlier, to the day, of Mr. Hays’ death.
According to the Press-Enterprise obituary, the family were considering plans for a memorial service. The family requested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the UCR Foundation, 120A Highlander Hall, 900 University Ave., Riverside CA 92521.
The website is ucr.edu/giving