Holmberg was the longtime publisher of the Chattanooga Times, which...

Holmberg was the longtime publisher of the Chattanooga Times, which challenged racial segregation and fought corruption. Credit: AP / Allison Kwesell

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Ruth Sulzberger Holmberg, longtime publisher of The Chattanooga Times and a member of the family that controls The New York Times, has died at her home in that Tennessee city. She was 96.

Holmberg was the granddaughter of Adolph S. Ochs, the patriarch of The Chattanooga Times who gained prominence as publisher of The New York Times early in the 20th century. The Chattanooga Times Free Press said her death Wednesday was confirmed by her family.

It said Holmberg was born Ruth Rachel Sulzberger in New York City and that she worked as a reporter at The New York Times while in high school. She later graduated from Smith College and arrived in Chattanooga in 1946 after serving as a Red Cross nurse in Europe for a time in World War II, according to the account. Early on, Holmberg served as art and theater critic for The Chattanooga Times.

In her early years as publisher of The Chattanooga Times, she led through turbulent times as her paper staked out positions in support of the civil rights movement. Under her watch, the paper also gained a reputation for feisty reporting that didn’t shy from tackling corruption, environmental contamination and other misdeeds.

Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher, called his aunt a “towering and courageous figure in journalism.”

“As publisher of The Chattanooga Times in Tennessee for nearly thirty years, she championed independent journalism that challenged racial segregation, uncovered political corruption and industrial pollution,” his statement said.

He added that she inspired countless women and men to enter journalism.

As a civic leader in Chattanooga for many years, she also was credited with making lasting contributions to its development.

“On behalf of her children, we are extremely proud of the leadership role that our mother played in Chattanooga in education, civil rights, beautification and the arts,” said her son Michael Golden, vice chairman of The New York Times Company, speaking with the Times Free Press.

The Times Free Press said Holmberg served as publisher of The Chattanooga Times from 1964 until 1992. It also said she was chairwoman of the Times Printing Co. from 1992 until 1999, when the company was sold to another media chain and The Chattanooga Times was merged with another paper.

The Heritage Funeral Home in Chattanooga told The Associated Press it was handling arrangements.

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