Wilbert Tatum, 76, publisher of black newspaper in NYC
Nayaba Arinde, an editor at the weekly paper, said Mr. Tatum had been ill recently but added that she did not know the cause of his death. He died in a hospital in Dubrovnik, where he was traveling with his wife, Susan.
Governor David Paterson called Mr. Tatum "not just a great newspaperman; he was a kind and decent person who stood out amongst the giants of New York City for his commitment to justice and social equality."
Mr. Tatum, a New York City native, held degrees from Lincoln University and Occidental College, served in the Marines, and was a longtime community activist, businessman, and journalist.
A member of a group that purchased the Amsterdam News in 1971, he rose to become board chairman and editor in chief, took majority control of the paper in 1982, and bought out the last investor in July 1996. In December 1997, he retired as publisher and editor in chief, replaced by his daughter, Elinor Ruth Tatum. He remained board chairman and publisher emeritus.
The Amsterdam News, one of 50 black newspapers in the United States when it was founded in December 1909, marks its centennial this year.
A prominent and sometimes controversial voice on racial, political, and other issues, Mr. Tatum also served as deputy borough president of Manhattan in the early 1970s.
In 1993, he was briefly named publisher and editor of the New York Post during a chaotic staff revolt against a new owner, Abe Hirschfeld, and a threat of bankruptcy. In 1996, a Manhattan jury ruled that Mr. Tatum had diverted more than $1 million from the Amsterdam News for his personal use.
In a statement on his death, the Amsterdam News noted that in the 1960s it had been the "premier newspaper for the civil rights and Black Nationalist movements." Under Mr. Tatum, it shifted to a "more liberal appeal" and as black newspapers diminished in numbers, it returned to a "more militant and progressive position."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Mr. Tatum's death was "a big loss for a paper that has been influencing and reflecting city politics for over 100 years."
"Bill Tatum was a respected journalist and businessman who never feared to speak truth to power, and expressed himself forcefully, with honesty and irreverence," said David Dinkins, the city's first black mayor.