Ruth Holmberg, Chattanooga civic leader and former publisher of The Chattanooga Times, died Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at her home. She was 96.
Mrs. Holmberg was the grandaughter of Adolph Ochs, the 19th century patriarch of The Chattanooga Times who rose to world prominence as publisher of The New York Times in the early decades of the 20th century.
Mrs. Holmberg was deeply involved in Chattanooga civic life, serving in leadership roles in the Chattanooga symphony & Opera Association, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Urban League and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
She was named Tennessee Woman of the Year in 2003.
Mrs. Holmberg served on the board of directors of both The New York Times Co. and the Associated Press. She was a past president of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.
For 28 years, 1964 – 1992, she was publisher of The Chattanooga Times, She was chairwoman of the Times Printing Co. from 1992 until 1999, when the company was sold to Walter E. Hussman Jr. who purchased both the morning Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press in the late 1990s, and combined the newspapers in early 1999.
Ms. Holmberg was born Ruth Rachel Sulzberger in New York City, and she worked as a reporter at The New York Times while in high school. She later graduated from Smith College. She arrived in Chattanooga in 1946 after serving as a Red Cross nurse in England and France during World War II. Early on, Holmberg served as art and theater critic for The Chattanooga Times.
During her early years as publisher of The Chattanooga Times she guided the newspaper through turbulent times as the newspaper took controversial positions in support of the civil rights movement.
Later, her passions as a champion for public education and the arts were themes of The Chattanooga Times editorial pages. Downtown renewal was also at the top of her agenda, and in her later years she took great pride in the city’s 21st century renaissance.
Through her longtime former role as publisher and her civic leadership on various community boards, she was a pioneer in supporting by voice and example progressive issues as social tolerance, women in leadership and nature and the arts.
ArtsBuild established The Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership annual award in 2014 to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the arts in Chattanooga and is actively engaged in the cultural life of the community. The first award recognized Ruth Holmberg for her extraordinary support of the arts and cultural community in Chattanooga over the past 70 years.
Mrs. Holmberg was preceded in death by her two husbands, the late Ben Hale Golden and the late William “Bill” Holmberg.
She is survived by three sons, Michael Golden, New York, NY, vice chairman of The New York Times; Arthur Golden, Brookline, MA, writer, whose works include “Memoirs of a Geisha”;; Stephen Golden, Tucson, AZ; and a daughter, Lynn G. Dolnick, Castleton, VA; sister, Marian Heiskell, New York; three step-daughters, Jeanne Johnson and Elin Holmberg-Rowland, both of Sky Valley, Ca., and Meg Duckworth of Rye, NY; seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, seven step-grandchildren and many step-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, April 24, at 5 p.m. in the Frierson Theatre of The Girls Preparatory School, 205 Island Avenue, Chattanooga.
A reception for Ruth’s family and friends will follow at the Hunter Museum.
Memorial contributions in Ruth’s name may be made to The Hunter Museum, 10 Bluff View Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403 or Public Education Foundation, 100 E. 10th Street, Ste. 500, Chattanooga, TN 37402.\
You may visit www.heritagechattanooga.com to share condolences to the Holmberg Family.
Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home, East Brainerd Chapel, 7454 E. Brainerd Road.