John Cowles Jr., an 82-year-old editor and publisher from a long line of Minneapolis newspaper executives in his family, stayed active in the newspaper industry until the very end. He died March 14 in his home.
Cowles, a former owner of the Star and Tribune Company, was known by some as a philanthropist who contributed editorials advocating for the civil rights movement.
"John Cowles is one of the most important civic figures in Minneapolis in the last half-century," said Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Cowles encouraged the development and growth of arts and sports in Minneapolis. During the 1970s, he also advocated the construction of the Metrodome, or what is now known as the Mall of America Metrodome, in downtown Minneapolis. This support elicited mixed responses and accusal of conflict of interest.
Cowles was heavily involved in the establishment of the Guthrie theater. According to StarTribune, "In the spring of 1960, he cajoled director Tyrone Guthrie to establish his regional theater in Minneapolis and then went about raising the money to do so, serving as the first president of the theater foundation and later as its board chairman."
He faced his share of criticism. Although he was described as a liberal, he served on a White House committee that advocated for support of President Johnson's war policies in 1965, according to Bruce Weber's article in the New York Times. He also was asked to resign from Cowles Media Board in 1982 after the Star and Tribune papers merged and he placed himself in the former position of publisher Donald Dwight.
Though he grew to be a well-known newspaper executive, in 1953 Cowles started out as a newbie police reporter at one of the many newspaper's his father owned, the Minneapolis Star.
According to StarTribune, A memorial event celebrating Cowles' life will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, May 18, at Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.