ALVAH H. CHAPMAN JR., 87
Miami newspaperman, civic leader
Former Miami Herald president/CEO Alvah H. Chapman Jr., one of South Florida's most influential corporate and civic leaders, whose business acumen and quiet passion helped mold not just the Herald, but modern Miami, died Thursday of pneumonia.
Mr. Chapman, a third-generation newspaperman, spent a traditional family Christmas Eve at his Coconut Grove home, reading the Bible with his wife, Betty, their two daughters and several grandchildren, and then died Christmas Day. He was afflicted with Parkinson's disease, suffered strokes in recent years and broke a hip in March.
Georgia-born and Citadel-educated, Mr. Chapman brought his family to Miami in 1960. He evolved into a devoted and energetic champion of his adopted hometown and became the unifying force behind scores of civic endeavors - from housing the homeless to sculpting downtown Miami's contemporary appearance to leading We Will Rebuild after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Long before his death, Mr. Chapman had become a civic legend exceeded perhaps only by pioneer Henry Flagler, another corporate titan whose leadership surpassed that of any elected official. Taciturn and courtly in public, Mr. Chapman viewed this brand of leadership as a responsibility - and as smart business.
"You can't publish a successful newspaper in a community that's dying on the vine," he once said. "If you want a successful company that's involved in the community, and a newspaper certainly is that, then you have to contribute to that community's success, too."
Mr. Chapman was the person whom presidents and paupers turned to when something needed to be done in South Florida.
Modesto "Mitch" Maidique, president of Florida International University, cited a doctoral thesis on power and reputation in South Florida that found, "no matter which way you cut it, Alvah was the most powerful and respected man in Miami."
In 2001, the university named its graduate business school in Mr. Chapman's honor.
"Alvah was an incredible role model throughout his life, and that never diminished," said David Landsberg, president and publisher of The Miami Herald Media Co. "What most impressed me is that right to the end, he didn't let down ... aggressively seeking support for the most important causes, and always giving valuable personal advice."
Guided by deeply held religious beliefs and a code of moral rectitude rooted in his Citadel education, he seldom turned aside challenges to improve Miami. In response, his summons to others seldom went unanswered.