James C. Dowdle, a driving force behind the Tribune Company’s transition into a major broadcasting and media organization, died at the age of 79 his home on Feb. 17, 2014. He spent nearly 19 years with the Tribune organization before retiring in 1999,
Dowdle, a Chicago native, began his career as a classified advertising salesman for the Chicago Tribune in 1956. This was interrupted by military service in the U.S. Marine Corp. Upon his return to civilian life, Dowdle began a nearly 40-year career in broadcasting, first selling Chicago television ad time to clients of Edward Petry & Co. He later gravitated to sales positions in the Oklahoma and Minneapolis-St. Paul markets and later moved to the Hubbard Broadcasting’s Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. Property, WTOG-TV as vice president and general manager. He left that position after eight years to return to Chicago to consolidate and develop the Tribune Company’s television and radio operations as Tribune Company Broadcasting. He was named executive vice president of Tribune in 1991. During his tenure, Tribune moved from ownership of three television and six radio properties into an 18 TV station group reaching some 75 percent of U.S. homes. Tribune also became a player in the WB network and branched out into cable and other media. Under Dowdle’s leadership, Tribune also became a sports team owner with the purchase of the Chicago Cubs in 1981.
Dowdle was a 1956 graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he received a degree in accounting. He was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 1994 was named Person of the Year by the Broadcasting Advertisers Club of Chicago. He received the NAB’s Distinguished Service Award in 1998.
In addition to his wife of 58 years, Sally, survivors include a son, three daughters and 18 grandchildren. Services will be held on Feb. 22 in Winnetka, Ill.