Joe L. Allbritton, who vaulted from modest means as a young man in post-World War II Texas to become one of the most influential media and financial figures of his generation, died Wednesday in Houston after several months of ill health. He was 87.
Allbritton made his original fortune in banking, becoming a millionaire by age 33 in a career that brought him friendships with some of the most powerful people in Washington and around the world -- as well as, on occasion, high-profile business controversies.
But it was in the world of media that his career represented a bridge between eras. Roaring into the nation's capital in 1974, he bought and for four years owned The Washington Star, the venerable but financially troubled afternoon daily founded in 1852. In his 80s, he watched as proud observer and informal counselor as his family business launched POLITICO.
Joe Allbritton's only son, Robert Allbritton, 43, is the publisher of POLITICO and the CEO of the privately held media company that owns eight ABC-affiliated television stations in seven markets, including WJLA in Washington.
"Joe was, first and foremost, a beloved and loyal husband, father, grandfather and friend," his family said in a statement Wednesday. "His life was defined by a love, wit, charm and attentiveness that will be forever cherished by all of us. Joe's life was also one of great achievement, as a businessman, innovator and philanthropist. He was fiercely passionate and unfailingly generous."
Joe Allbritton was born in D'Lo, Miss., on Dec. 29, 1924, the sixth of seven children in a family that soon moved to Houston, where his father owned a small business. After Navy service in World War II, with degrees in hand from Baylor University, he opened a law practice that very soon gave way to his real interest: the art of the deal.
He was a key member of a generation of Houstonians -- including George H.W. Bush and LBJ aide Jack Valenti -- who leveraged their Texas achievements and connections into outsize Washington careers. Valenti, who died in 2007, was one of Allbritton's closest friends; the 41st president was a regular at the annual brunch Allbritton and his wife, Barbara, held at their Washington home on the morning after the Alfalfa dinner, an exclusive gathering of top business and political leaders.
Source: Politico.com | JOHN F. HARRIS and JAMES HOHMANN