William Davis Taylor ‘31, former publisher of the Boston Globe, died of heart failure on Tuesday at his home in Brookline.
Taylor, instrumental in endowing Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, was 93.
His colleagues at the Globe credit Taylor for bringing the paper to the forefront of journalism over his 26 years as publisher from 1955 to 1981.
“Nobody in recent American journalism had a more exciting and satisfactory run than I did in my twenty-odd years working for Dave Taylor,” said Thomas Winship, editor-in-chief of the Globe while Taylor was publisher.
Taylor kept close ties to Harvard as a member of the Board of Overseers and the Harvard Club of Boston.
In 1965, Taylor raised more than $1.2 million dollars for Harvard’s Nieman Fellowship for journalists, matching a donation from the Ford Foundation.
“He made an extraordinary contribution to the future generation of Neiman fellows,” said Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation. “As a result of his leadership the Foundation is in a strong financial place today.”
Colleagues at the Globe remembered Taylor’s attachment to the University.
“I know he loved Harvard,” said Matthew V. Storin, Globe editor from 1993 and 2001 and current fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Shorenstein Center.
“We used to cover the Harvard commencement with about four clear pages of copy,” Storin said.
Taylor, or “Dave” as his Globe colleagues called him, graduated from Harvard in 1931 and joined the Globe as a junior accountant.
Taylor’s grandfather, Charles H. Taylor founded the newspaper and his father, William Osgood Taylor, preceded his son as publisher.
Taylor rose through the paper’s ranks, becoming business manager, treasurer, and then general manager in 1940.
After his father’s death in 1955, Taylor took the helm. As publisher of the Globe, Taylor turned the paper into the leading daily newspaper in the region, where it remains.
“He was instrumental in the Globe becoming a quality newspaper,” Storin said. “In the ’50s and ’60s it was by no means the best.”
The Globe also grew in prestige after Taylor assumed control, with 11 Pulitzer Prizes to its name.
In October 1973, he approved an editorial calling for President Richard Nixon’s resignation for office, making the Globe the first major newspaper to do so. This editorial anticipated the event almost a year in advance.
The Globe was also the second newspaper in the country to advocate for withdrawal from the Vietnam War.
Taylor encouraged an atmosphere of autonomy for reporters and editors. Though Taylor had friends in high places, from Harvard to the State House to City Hall, he was careful to keep his personal interests out of the newsroom.
“He was very much part of the establishment,” Storin said. “But he insisted that the department be protected from the influences where he might have friends.”
Taylor’s professional success was equalled by personal charm.
“He struck a very patrician figure and yet he was beloved by the employees in all departments,” Storin said. “I think that he knew the name of every employee at the Globe.”
Taylor was also a devoted outdoorsman and sailor. He directed Outward Bound’s Hurricane Island School and was involved in the local Boy Scouts for many years.
Taylor is survived by his wife Ann, four children, sixteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Services for Taylor will be held Monday at 11 a.m. in Harvard’s Memorial Church.