Two flamboyant former editors who left legacies of notoriety at the Houston Chronicle and The Houston Post took different career tracks this week. One got a new job, and the other resigned.
Former Chronicle chief editor Philip G. Warner helped make or break jurists in his role as the paper's arbiter of judicial endorsements in the late 70s and early 80s. Now he's donning the black robes himself. The 60-year-old lawyer started work Monday as the $82,000-a-year associate judge in the state 245th District family court of elected Judge Annette Galik.
On the West Coast, Gerald "Angel of Death" Garcia -- he presided over the evisceration and ultimate folding of The Houston Post for owner William Dean Singleton in 1995 -- resigned as editor of the San Bernardino County Sun. Last September, Garcia took the job at the Sun, which is owned by Singleton's MediaNews Group. Officials at the paper cited unspecified "personal reasons" for his departure.
Warner, during his hard-drinking, politically active time as editor-in-chief of the Chronicle from 1976 to 1987, became a familiar figure holding court loudly at a succession of local watering holes. They ranged from the legal crowd's Inns of Court to the River Oaks Shopping Center's Wine Press to Back Street Café just off Shepherd Drive.
When the Hearst Corporation purchased the paper in 1987, Warner was suddenly unwanted. He disappeared from the public eye after leaving the Chronicle and went on to practice family law.
Warner's tenure at the Chronicle was marked by a celebrated news cover-up in March 1985. Chron reporter Olive Talley linked employees of Houston Endowment, the foundation that owned the Chronicle then, with misuse of monies by the Hermann Estate, which funded Hermann Hospital. At the time, Warner was a trustee on the Hermann Hospital board. The paper's top editors killed her investigative story.
Talley resigned in protest and alerted colleagues at The Post. She later wrote for The Post and The Dallas Morning News, and is currently a producer for Dateline NBC based in Dallas.
Warner explains his new role by saying Galik offered him the associate judgeship. He's taking it as the final step before retirement.
"I'm 60 years old, and just the hustle and bustle of private practice requires lots of energy," says the former editor. He'd earned his law degree at night while working at the Chronicle. "I really enjoy and like the law. This is really what I should have done all along."
Now he tells us.
Asked whether he plans to use the position as a springboard to an elected court bench, Warner vows no, no and no.
"Let me swear on my children's lives that's the last thing I want. I could have done that years ago, by appointment had I wanted to, when I left the Chronicle."
Former Post editor Garcia was unavailable for comment. Unlike The Post, the San Bernardino County Sun did not die with his departure. But it wasn't going gangbusters, either.
According to a report by the Riverside Press-Enterprise's Rick Burnham, the Sun reported a weekday circulation of 77,672, a paltry gain of less than half of 1 percent from a year earlier. But on the other hand, it still had a pulse.
Garcia earned the sobriquet "Angel of Death" after helping close the 150-year-old Knoxville Journal in Tennessee in 1991, a move that left dozens of journalists at the unemployment line. Of the nickname, Garcia later commented, "I lay off people. I fire people. I'm good at my job."
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He repeated the performance in Houston during his three-year editorship at The Post.
Garcia went on to handle newsroom recruiting for Singleton's Los Angeles Newspaper Group. He joined the Sun after Media NewsGroup took over that paper from Gannett and the Sun's top management resigned.
Garcia briefly popped up in Houston several years ago, trying to drum up investor support for a communications group that included a conservative East Coast talk radio station. After that gig, he flew back to the Singleton nest.
E-mail Tim Fleck at firstname.lastname@example.org.