Jonathan Marshall, a prominent voice in the Valley for more than four decades as a journalist, politician and philanthropist, died on Saturday.
He was 84 and had suffered in recent years from multiple ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, according to Jonathan H. Marshall, his son.
Marshall fought for a legion of causes in Arizona, first as owner and publisher of the Scottsdale Progress, and after selling the daily newspaper in 1987, through a charitable foundation he launched with his wife of 53 years, Maxine.
“One of the themes for my dad is always sticking up for the underdog,” said Marshall’s son. “And if there were people he thought were not getting a fair shake, he was always on their side. He was just a big believer in the concept of American justice for all people.”
With the purchase of the Scottsdale Progress in 1963, Marshall brought a liberal editorial viewpoint that argued for open space, open public meetings and open records.
“For somebody as liberal as he was, to be in a community as conservative as Scottsdale, it’s probably a wonder he lasted at all,” said Jim Bruner, a former city councilman.
Bruner and Marshall became friends, despite often being political adversaries. The publisher wanted Scottsdale to remain small, Bruner said, while the council viewed development as inevitable.
After Don Bolles, an investigative reporter with The Arizona Republic, died in a car bombing in 1976, Marshall hired a reporter to work full time digging into the murder case.
Marshall was a staunch Democrat — his first political experience came volunteering for Adlai Stevenson’s presidential campaign in 1952. But party affiliation did not determine his editorial stances.
“I was one of the first editors in the country to oppose the Vietnam War,” Marshall told The Phoenix Gazette in 1987. “That’s when people said, ‘You’re just a communist.’”
As the Watergate scandal unfolded in 1974, Marshall relinquished control of the Progress to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Barry Goldwater. He accused Goldwater of failing to “change the ethical standards” of the Nixon administration.
Marshall sold the Progress to Cowles Media Co. after 24 years as publisher. Cox Newspapers later purchased the Progress and merged it with the Mesa Tribune.
Rather than retirement, Marshall and his wife formed the Marshall Fund of Arizona.
Over the course of 15 years and 183 grants, the couple donated $5.5 million to health care, arts, environmental, cultural and other efforts.
Last month, Marshall published his autobiography, titled “Dateline History,” said Jan Laurant, his longtime administrative assistant.
Among his father’s many accomplishments, Jonathan H. Marshall said perhaps the most prized came from a contribution to protect Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra Vista. Run by the Nature Conservancy, the preserve is home to several species of hummingbirds.
“My dad always liked the idea he was able to help preserve a species,” his son said. “How many of us can say we did that?”
Marshall earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in 1946 in economics and political science and, 16 years later, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. He is survived by his wife, their four children and 10 grandchildren.
The family will hold a memorial service at Temple Solel in Scottsdale, which Marshall founded in 1966.