Other key members of the Chandler family wanted Philip to succeed Norman, wrote Marshall Berges in his 1984 book, "The Life and Times of Los Angeles." But Norman "regarded Philip as something of a lightweight, not entirely competent to take an aggressive leadership role at The Times."
As it happened, the consultants also recommended that, to ensure stability, the new publisher be capable of holding the job at least 15 years. Since mandatory retirement age for the publisher was then 65, that conveniently eliminated the 52-year-old Philip. And that apparently gave Mrs. Chandler the opening she needed.
But in the social pecking order of the Southern California elite, she was seen as a cut below the Chandlers, and they never let her forget it.
They "never thought she was good enough to marry Norman, and she was out to prove them wrong," her son said several years after her death. They never forgave her for her apparent role in Otis' ascension over Philip.
His sudden elevation and his record as an athlete, not a scholar, at Stanford, led some members of the family (and their friends) to openly wonder if he had the intellectual capacity to run The Times.
But William F. Thomas, who was editor of the Times from 1971 to 1989, said that although Chandler was basically "a C-plus student
his focus and tenacity
made him an A-plus as a publisher or almost anything else he really put his mind to."
("Jesus, Bill," Chandler told Thomas when he learned what the editor had said. "I was a B student.")
Direct, decisive and at times startlingly frank in both his personal and professional lives, Chandler told people what he expected of them, and he didn't have much patience with failure. When many top Times executives proved either reluctant to change or incapable of meeting his standards after he became publisher, he replaced 22 of 23 department heads within the first year.
He also began hiring top reporters and editors from other major news organizations and opening Times bureaus around the world.
Chandler was just then becoming interested in big game hunting, and his approach to hiring was much the same: go after only the biggest and the best.
One of the first examples came in 1961, when The Times hired Jim Murray as a sports columnist. Murray had helped create Sports Illustrated and was one of its stars. As a Times columnist, he would become one of the most celebrated sportswriters ever.
In the next three years, The Times changed as perhaps no other American newspaper has ever done in such a short time. Bureaus opened in Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome, Bonn, London, Vienna and San Francisco, at the United Nations and on Wall Street. Staffing in Washington and Sacramento was expanded.
Chandler and his editor, Williams, lured reporters away from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, the Washington Star, BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report.
In one of their biggest coups, they brought in Robert J. Donovan, the Washington Bureau chief of the New York Herald-Tribune and one of the most respected journalists in the country, to be chief of the expanded Times bureau in the capital.
And in January 1964, they hired a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist away from the Denver Post. As much as any other change at the paper, the arrival of Paul Conrad — brilliant, sharp-penned and liberal — served notice that an entirely new breed of Chandler was in charge.
Mouthpiece for GOP No More
To grasp the breadth of the changes, it is necessary to understand what The Times had been. More than merely a newspaper with a conservative editorial policy, it was an openly partisan mouthpiece for the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Not only did it champion GOP candidates, its editors helped select them. Not only did it not, as a rule, endorse Democrats for elective office; it didn't cover their campaigns. Readers could be excused for thinking that only one political party existed in Southern California.
For most of the first 80 years of its existence, the paper was such a journalistic laughingstock that humorist S.J. Perelman once wrote that while traveling through the Western United States by train, he asked a porter to bring him a newspaper and "unfortunately, the poor man, hard of hearing, brought me the Los Angeles Times."
OTIS CHANDLER | 1927-2006