April 26, 2013
Al Neuharth in Cocoa Beach

Al Neuharth at home in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at his oceanfront office in 1987. (Newseum collection)

Neuharth Tributes Pour in From Across the USA

WASHINGTON — Memorial celebrations are pending for Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, in Melbourne, Fla., Washington, D.C., at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, and in his hometown, Eureka, S.D., where he will be buried in a Neuharth family plot.

Since his death April 19 at the age of 89, tributes have been written by people across the country whose lives have been touched in ways big and small by Neuharth and his legacy: Neighbors. Current and former colleagues. Alumni from the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference program.

Their comments have been eloquent, plain and simple — the "plain talk" that Neuharth preferred. We'd like to share some of their comments from our online and social media sites and from blogs and news organizations around the world.

"Where is the "saddened" button?"

— Chris Rivero

"Had a great two-year tour with him on NewsCapade. Traveled to all 50 states. He was a great American. Glad I got to know him. He will be missed by many."

— Kenneth Stegall

"Newseum and Freedom Forum are an amazing legacy for anyone. Thank you, Mr. Neuharth."

— Rebecca Green

"RIP, Al. I remember meeting you at different times and that you were a wonderful person. USA Today, the Freedom Forum and Newseum will be great legacies left behind for everyone to see."

— Laura McCarty

"I am deeply saddened to hear of this great loss. As a young adult in the '80s, it was largely because of USA Today that I became a big news junkie and started to understand what was happening in my country, in my government. I began to have a passion for understanding news, politics and events of the time. I was exactly the type of person USA Today was created for. … I may not have agreed with every opinion that Mr. Neuharth wrote in his own regular column, but I respected his freedom to express his opinion. Some of the comments, though, I did agree with. And I had a huge respect for him and his accomplishments — a sort of David taking on Goliath — a huge risk in journalism. … Mr. Neuharth has lived in Cocoa Beach for as long as I can remember, with his devoted wife and adopted children. Mr. Neuharth loved living in Brevard County. We will all miss him."

— Leslie Ann W.

"RIP, newspaper man."

— Terry Hebert

"He was a visionary, and it was a privilege to work for GCI when he was at the helm."

— Jan Kinnicutt

"You did great! RIP, and thanks."

— Julio Rosa

"Always was very nice to me, giving me advice and counsel. Actually used to read USA Today regularly but don't anymore. Appreciated that he invited my family to his 4th of July party in Washington, D.C., every year. The kids loved it."

— Joe Tiernan

"Sad to hear of the passing of Mr. Al Neuharth, founder of @USATODAY & @Newseum. Such an honor meeting him as a Free Spirit Scholar in '06."

— Kelcey Bridges

"R.I.P. His conference was so life-altering, and he seemed like a great guy."

— Lee Emil Hernandez

"Thank you, Al Neuharth, for that amazing opportunity to learn about journalism and meet so many inspiring, accomplished people. Mr. Neuharth's memory will live on as we all "Dream, Dare, Do," just like he taught us."

— Ashley Binetti, 2006 Free Spirit, now at Georgetown Law School

"I'll always be grateful to have been selected for his Free Spirit program eight years ago. I knew then that journalism, and possibly political journalism, would be my career goal, but that one week in Washington solidified my fate. I can't put into words how special that week was, how much I learned, and how inspired it left me. I'll always admire Al's passion for journalism and his generosity in supporting future generations to pursue the craft. I owe him a debt of gratitude for the impact he had on my life."

— Kristen M. Daum, 2005 Free Spirit, now state government reporter, Lansing State Journal

"What I admired most about Al Neuharth was that he was honest, even when his opinions were unpopular or met with criticism. He showed me what it means to be a free spirit and inspires me to always be one."

— Freesia Singngam, 2005 Free Spirit, now at Quinnipiac Law School

"Al Neuharth was larger than life in his achievements and his vision. He remains a powerful force for free and fair journalism and a better country, even after his passing, through all the lives he touched. The world will miss him, his contributions and his words. But because of the investments he made in future generations, it can be assured that his legacy lives on."

— Frank Lyles, 2012 Free Spirit, high school senior in Nashville, Tenn.

"Through a scholarship and trip to Washington, D.C., Al Neuharth showed me the wonderful opportunity that this world has to offer, and dared me to rise to achieve it. For that, I am forever in his debt."

— Jake Soberal, 2004 Free Sprit, now an attorney based in California

"What impressed me most about Al was that in the twilight of his life, when he could have rested after accomplishing so much on a national and macro-scale, he devoted most of his energy to educating young people. He was very proud of the Free Spirit Scholars program that bears his name, and the students who participated in it year after year loved to interact with him. He always gave honest, direct and good advice to them, and they ate it up."

— Jim Duff, president and CEO of the Freedom Forum; CEO of the Newseum and the Diversity Institute

"History will sort out where Al stands amid the great names of our industry, such as Hearst, Pulitzer, Chandler and Scripps. I imagine Neuharth will be added to that list. I'm grateful to Al for many things, most of all for his daring. Daring to push for women and minorities to lead news organizations. Daring others to think big and be bold. Daring the news industry to change along with the demographics of the country. He was a founder. He built things. And he was always Al. For that, I'm very grateful."

— Orage Quarles III, publisher of The News & Observer, and a Newseum trustee

"What I admired most about Al and his newspaper was his belief in real people, his crusade to try to communicate with everyone — rich and poor, young and old, immigrant and citizen — and provide them with good, solid, factual information. … Al Neuharth believed in and lived the slogan he created that has appeared in USA Today every day since its inception: 'USA Today hopes to serve as a forum for better understanding and unity to help make the USA truly one nation.' It might sound corny to some sophisticates, but he loved America. He came from the heartland and unity was his vision. It is his legacy to all of us in the news business, if we can keep it."

— Richard Benedetto, adjunct professor of journalism at American University, and a retired USA Today White House correspondent and columnist

"I think of all the many ways this man 'walked the walk' of transparency, my favorite was his weekly column in USA Today. If you were the subject on any given week, you'd get a call on Tuesday or so, telling you that Al was writing about you and that you'd get a copy of his column so you could comment back. When the column appeared every Friday, the subject would have had a chance to reply. Open and fair. Jack Knight once told an interviewer that he wanted to be known as a man who printed good newspapers, was fair, open-minded and opinionated. He could have been writing Al Neuharth's obit."

— Alberto Ibargüen, CEO of the Knight Foundation; Newseum trustee emeritus; former publisher of The Miami Herald

"If you've ever been to our building on U.S. 1 in Suntree, you've probably seen the bronze bust of him in the lobby. It's an engaging, personable likeness — curly hair, open collar shirt, wide open eyes. The bust is much larger than life size. Which is to say, as a representation of Al Neuharth, it's the right size."

— Bob Stover, executive editor, Florida Today

"I remember having the opportunity to introduce Al at the NAJA convention in Scottsdale, Ariz. I read from the long list of his life's accomplishments, a list that went on and on, and then turned the podium over to him. He took the mike and said, 'Thanks Tim for the great introduction, but it was kind of short wasn't it?' That was Allen Neuharth, a South Dakota boy who made good, but never lost his sense of humor. He will be missed greatly by every Native American journalist in America."

— Tim Giago, founder, Indian Country Today

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