Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Veteran Journalist Used His Pen to Influence Manatee County

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Veteran Journalist Used His Pen to Influence Manatee County

Article excerpt

For decades, readers in Manatee County associated their daily news with the name John T. Hamner.

As editor of the Bradenton Herald and later the Herald-Tribune's Manatee editor, Hamner bedeviled local officials. At his retirement roast, a "jury" found him guilty of being a curmudgeonly critic of local public officials.

Hamner died Tuesday night at age 89 at the Tallahassee home of his daughter, novelist and former Sarasota lawyer Claire Matturro.

"John was the quintessential newsman," Herald-Tribune Publisher Diane McFarlin said. "He was feisty and dogged and had a writer's soul. He was also a teacher at heart and, as an editor, raised so many fine journalists.

"He cared deeply about Manatee County. Nothing got under his skin more than a reference to Sarasota in the paper that should have mentioned Bradenton as well. That's why he made the ideal Manatee editor for us and, later, a resolute editorial writer and columnist."

Herald-Tribune opinion editor Thomas Tryon, whom Hamner hired as a reporter, remembers one of Hamner's battles.

"The Manatee County Commission was on the verge of selling Manatee Memorial Hospital for a pittance," Tryon said. "Hamner launched his own campaign in print to stop the commission from giving away 'my hospital,' as he called the publicly owned hospital.

"His unabashed attachment to his hospital led critics to contend his columns and editorials were part of a one-man crusade.

At first, they were right, but Hamner eventually swayed public and political opinion.

The proposed giveaway was abandoned and the hospital subsequently sold for $45 million and a trust fund for indigent patients was created.

"It was courageous, effective journalism at its best."

After his retirement in 1990, Hamner continued writing an op-ed column for the Herald-Tribune until 2008, 60 years after he started writing for newspapers.

"I had said what I had to say," Hamner wrote, quoting "To Kill A Mockingbird" author and fellow Alabama native Harper Lee. …

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