published Friday, May 28th, 2010

Tom Griscom's big careers

Tom Griscom, the publisher and executive editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is a "local boy who made good" in his chosen profession of newspapering, political press leadership and corporate public relations. Now he has announced he will leave his present post June 30 for other activities.

As a youth growing up on Missionary Ridge, Tom would have preferred spending his Saturday mornings playing ball. But he was summoned each weekend to board the Lookout Mountain Incline, to go to the home of his aunt, Miss Isobel Griscom, who was a most remarkable and inspiring English professor at the University of Chattanooga. That's where Tom got his big start in dealing with words.

Miss Griscom gave few "directions" in her teaching. She was of the "Socratic" method of instruction, following the example of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, asking questions, causing the pupil to "think" to produce answers. After those mental exercises, Miss Griscom would reward Tom with lunch at Rock City.

Tom extended his education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he became the energetic editor of the school paper, the Echo. So it was a natural step for him to apply and be accepted as a reporter for the Chattanooga Free Press after his graduation from college.

He soon was advanced to the important assignment of political writer for the paper, covering local, state and national political campaigns, and the Tennessee General Assembly.

He impressed Tennessee's outstanding Sen. Howard Baker so much that when the senator was called to be chief of staff in the White House of President Ronald Reagan, one of the first calls Sen. Baker made was to Tom, to become the White House director of communications.

In that important post, Mr. Griscom rubbed shoulders with virtually all major figures in our national government and traveled the world.

Many people recall the dramatic scene in 1987 when President Reagan spoke to a large crowd in Berlin, which then was divided between the Soviet Union's occupation zone and that of the United States and its Western allies. It was on that occasion when President Reagan challenged the Soviets with the historic words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" That was the message that Tom Griscom had suggested to the president for that historic occasion. And in time, the Berlin Wall fortunately did come down.

Mr. Griscom went from political messaging to major corporate public relations. But the newspaper world in which he had begun his professional career tugged at him. After the Chattanooga Free Press and The Chattanooga Times were purchased and combined in 1999 by Walter Hussman of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Mr. Griscom wanted to return to his "roots." He was welcomed back -- to became publisher and executive editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

He has held that position of active news leadership for the past 11 years. But now he has decided to change course. Effective June 30, he will leave the newspaper and engage in other activities.

He will be greatly missed. Mr. Griscom has been a vigorous and energetic news leader in the best tradition of offering full and fair news coverage for the people of the Chattanooga area. He has applied his extensive experience and talents to bring Chattanooga-area readers an informative, exciting and public service newspaper that is really unlike any other.

We wish Mr. Griscom well, and will continue to publish the Times Free Press in the best of newspaper traditions, to which Mr. Griscom has made large contributions.

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