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Former Tribune chairman and publisher H. Doyle Harvill dies at 80

TAMPA — H. Doyle Harvill, retired chairman and publisher of the Tampa Tribune, died Thursday. He was 80.

Former colleagues remember the ex-Marine as a throwback, a newsman who smoked and swore in the office while lighting a fire under his staff to get the facts.

His 46-year career took him through the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Times before he arrived at the Tribune, where he counter-punched the Times' move into Hillsborough County with a Pinellas edition of the Tribune.

He retired in 1993.

He welcomed controversy, both in the subjects he covered and his personal style.

"He was a foul-mouthed, old-time street reporter," said Times columnist Howard Troxler, a former Tribune reporter.

Like a general conducting a foreign war, Mr. Harvill kept a map posted on his office wall with pins to mark coverage areas — both acquired and sought.

"He'd call out, 'Ocala! Crystal River! Okeechobee! We have to get Sarasota!' " Troxler recalled.

Mr. Harvill made sure that newspaper boxes carried the Tribune throughout Florida and Georgia and part of Alabama.

He did not spare the cost, sending four reporters coast to coast to cover presidential campaigns. When corporate owner Media General objected, Mr. Harvill sometimes mollified his bosses by forbidding staffer vacations over the next several months.

He took on the Port Authority over tax hikes, politicians over unkept campaign promises, and believed in digging up as much background as possible to tell the public who they might be electing.

Jan Platt sat across a table in 1974 to be interviewed by Mr. Harvill, who was then managing editor of the now-defunct Tampa Times. "He sat back in his chair and said, 'What do you think you can do if you're elected? Why should we support you?'" said Platt, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner who was running for the Tampa City Council at the time. "He just laid it on the line."

At times, Mr. Harvill's blunt words rubbed people the wrong way. In a newsroom rant about the importance of keeping contacts, he used a racially offensive phrase to refer to former City Council member Perry Harvey, who is black.

"He used to refer to me as 'the skirt,' " said Sandy Freedman, Tampa's mayor during Mr. Harvill's years as the Tribune's publisher. "He once told me that I would never get anything done in this city unless I had run it past him first."

Yet Mr. Harvill was ahead of the curve in hiring integrated newsrooms and promoting women to roles they were not widely getting, such as investigative reporter.

The son of a circuit-riding Primitive Baptist minister, Herbert Doyle Harvill was born in Keysville, in rural east Hillsborough County, in 1929.

To avoid going to work for an uncle on a truck farm, he chose a newspaper career. He signed on with the Times in its printing department. He later served two years with the Marine Corps, including 14 months in Korea, and worked at two Texas newspapers. He also earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas before returning to Tampa to join the Tampa Times, an afternoon daily and the Tribune's sister paper, in 1958 as a reporter.

He quickly won promotions, first to copy editor and later to city editor. At age 35, he was managing editor.

For a decade, he ran Multimedia Inc. newspapers in Greenville, S.C., and Montgomery, Ala., and returned to Tampa in 1986 as executive editor and vice president of the Tribune.

Shortly after his arrival, the hard-driving executive launched an ambitious, and expensive, expansion of the Tribune's news operation, adding bureaus and expanding the paper's circulation area. Frequently the boisterous Mr. Harvill told his staff that the Tribune should be "Florida's newspaper."

The Tribune reported that Mr. Harvill died at home in Tampa.

. Biography

H. Doyle Harvill

Born: July 11, 1929

Died: Dec. 17, 2009

Survivors: wife Elyse, son Alan, daughter Kimberly Scott.

Former Tribune chairman and publisher H. Doyle Harvill dies at 80 12/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:41pm]
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