Paul Bellamy - Editor of the "Cleveland Plain Dealer"

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Paul Bellamy
Paul Bellamy

Paul Bellamy spent 45 years with The Plain Dealer, including 17 years as editor. His ideas and ideals were known to the entire publishing world, in which he was such an important figure. In 1924, he made such a notable address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors at Atlantic City that several of the largest and most influential metropolitan dailies in the country printed it in full as a presidential message.

Fairness was one of Paul Bellamy's greatest virtues. Sometimes he printed columns presenting viewpoints that differed radically from the paper's editorial policy. He was always cordial and pleasant. If one of his staff happened to be in trouble, financial or otherwise, “the old man” was always ready and willing to help.

Paul Bellamy was born on December 26, 1884, in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, the only son of Edward and Emma Bellamy. Paul’s life as a boy was considerably more secluded than most boys. His father thrust him into education to the exclusion of usual childhood pursuits.

One day when young Bellamy was looking wistfully across fields to where other boys were playing ball, his father drifted into the room and said, "Excellent, my son. I see you have finished both Gibbon and Redpath. Now, as a reward, you may begin Plutarch's Lives this very afternoon." (Plutarch's Lives is a series of 48 biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, probably written at the beginning of the second century).

Edward Bellamy died when Paul was only 13 years old. Paul quit somewhat the life of solitary scholarship designed for him before his father's death. He continued his studies more conventionally and completed high school. He worked his way through Harvard University with some help from an uncle, finishing a four-year curriculum in three years, graduating with honors in 1906.

Paul Bellamy had wanted to be a lawyer, but printer's ink smelled good to him, and we wanted to get into something that would pay him a salary at once since he could not afford to invest the time in building up a private law practice.

He got a job as a reporter on the Springfield Union in Massachusetts. In 1907, he came to Cleveland as a cub reporter at The Plain Dealer. Within two years, his natural aptitude propelled him to become city editor at age 26, the youngest city editor in The Plain Dealer’s history.

While a city editor, he was forced to toss out of the city room a man who had too much to drink. As he was propelled to the street, the visitor bellowed, “I’ve been thrown out of better places than this, but what I don’t like is being put out by a boy 12 or 14 who tells me he’s the city editor. This is indeed too much.”

For seven years, Bellamy remained on the city desk, where he was an active partisan of good government and fought doggedly to keep politics out of the public schools.

In 1916, he was seduced to live in luxury by a cushy job as vice president and secretary of the Credit Co. in Chicago and put out its directory. Then came World War I. He enlisted as a private to attend the field artillery officers’ training school at Camp Zachery Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. He had not completed the course by the armistice and was mustered out as a 1st lieutenant.

In April 1918, he was back at The Plain Dealer, much happier than being in the corporate world. In June 1920, Bellamy became managing editor of newspaper. On March 23, 1928, the paper placed him in complete charge of the editorial department. He continued as editor until January 1954, when he retired as editor emeritus.

Many honors came to Paul Bellamy in his lifetime. Perhaps one of the most important was in December 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him head of a select three-person committee to formulate policies for governing occupational draft deferment of employees in the federal government.

Mr. Bellamy was named Dean of the Year by the Cleveland newspaper Guild in 1951. He was honored by the Northeastern Ohio Professional Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, a national journalistic fraternity, receiving its distinguished service award that same year.

Ohio University conferred the degree of doctor of literature in 1939. The same degree was given to him by Oberlin College in 1941. In August 1942, Kent State University gave him a doctor of laws degree. For many years he served on the board of trustees of Antioch College.

Bellamy was a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines, and current books. Histories and biographies were his favorite reading. He had little time for hobbies but managed to play a little squash.

He was a member of the City Club of Cleveland, the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, the Mid-Day club, the Union club, and the Harvard Club of New York.

Paul married Marguerite Scott Stark of Boston on July 7, 1908, who came to Cleveland as Paul's bride. Marguerite was born on September 13, 1886, in Boston, and attended Dana Hall in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Paul and Marguerite had four children: John Stark, born on May 5, 1910; Richard King, born on July 6, 1911; Peter, born on November 9, 1914; and Joan B. (May).

Paul and Marguerite divorced in 1941. Paul married Mary Mitchell Henry (Pat) on November 21, 1941. She was born on July 11, 1904, in Newcomerstown, Ohio.

Bellamy was in apparent good health during the evening of April 12, 1956. Moments after he sat down for dinner at his Bratenahl home, he slumped without uttering a sound. The Bratenahl police rescue squad tried in vain to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead by his personal physician.

Mary moved to Bratenahl Place a few years after her husband's death. She died on July 21, 1996, as a resident of Parkland Centre nursing home.  Paul and Mary are buried at Lake View Cemetery.