Ruth Sulzberger Holmberg's brother, Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, was chosen to run The New York Times at a young age. Unproven, he was a risky choice in the early 1960s, when The Times faced declining circulation and other threats. He led the paper's revival and emergence into a national institution.
Holmberg, who died at age 96 this week, ran the family's other newspaper, The Chattanooga Times, for three decades. While the Chattanooga paper never received the national adulation of The New York Times, Mrs. Holmberg made it into an aggressive, conscientious community beacon, according to a Times obituary published Thursday.
The granddaughter of Arthur Ochs, who purchased the Chattanooga paper in 1878 and The New York Times in 1896, Mrs. Holmberg took over the Chattanooga paper from her first husband, Ben Golden, prior to divorcing him. She strengthened its coverage, for which Chattanooga wasn't grateful, considering her a Northern liberal and an outsider, according to the obituary. The small city on the Georgia border preferred the Chattanooga News Free Press, known for running front-page photos of Chamber of Commerce events. A few years ago, the papers were bought by a small publishing company and merged.
Mrs. Holmberg was also a longtime board member of The New York Times, and remained active in New York civic circles. Her brother received credit for saving The New York Times before passing the paper along to his son, who is now preparing to step aside and leave the paper to a new generation seeking to remake the company for the digital age.
If today's attitudes about women's abilities had been current in the 1960s, Mrs. Holberg might have been the one chosen to take over The New York Times rather than her brother. Her work with the Chattanooga paper proved that she had the talent and skill to lead the New York paper. She made the Chattanooga paper one of the best in the South, despite the community hostility she faced.
Also noteworthy was her service as a Red Cross volunteer near London during World War II. The New York Times along with its obituary ran a fetching photo of her during those wartime days.
One interesting fact from the obituary: The Chattanooga paper was never part of the New York Times Co. Mrs. Holmberg blazed an independent trail in the small Southern city, while upholding her New York City pedigree.