Almost 20 years after their divorce, the happily remarried Marilyn Brant DeYoung said she didn't think she'd been competitive with Chandler, "except on the tennis court, where I did get upset when he beat me." She said they had "a wonderful marriage," and he was "an involved father, especially when he was younger, before he was publisher."
By all accounts, the family enjoyed their outdoor experiences together, for Chandler focused on his children as intensely as he did on everything else that mattered in his life.
"When he was with you, he was really with you," Harry said.
Many Chandler associates said his marriage's breakup and the end of his publishership were inextricably intertwined.
"I think he saw leaving Missy as getting his freedom in one way," said David Laventhol, publisher of The Times from 1989 to 1994. "If he hadn't divorced Missy, I'm not sure he would've left the paper. He saw them both as restraints on his freedom. Otis is someone who's very used to having his own way, and she impeded that."
But William Thomas, who was Times editor when Chandler made his decision to step down as publisher, said he remembered sitting in a taxi with him in Madrid in 1975 — before he'd met Whitaker, when he was still married to Missy — and hearing Otis say he wanted to give up the publisher's job in three to five years.
Itching for More Freedom
Chandler was growing weary, worn down by the rigors of work and the burdens of responsibility, dispirited by GeoTek and his failing marriage, "getting by mostly on nervous energy, with big circles under my eyes," he later said. He was convinced that he had taken The Times about as far as he could, and he wanted more challenges — and more freedom.
Like his father before him, he thought he should concentrate on companywide responsibilities, by succeeding Franklin D. Murphy as chairman of the Times Mirror board. Murphy was scheduled to retire soon, and Otis was determined to give up the publisher's job in 1980, when he would have been publisher for 20 years — "four years longer than my father," he often pointed out to those disappointed by his departure.
Unlike his father, however, he had not insisted that his children follow him into leadership positions at The Times. Although all three of his sons worked at the paper for varying periods, none ascended into the top executive ranks.
Norman, the eldest, went through an executive training program and rose to be composing superintendent — a position overseeing much of the physical production of the paper — before leaving in 1989, when he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He died in 2002.
The youngest son, Michael, also worked in the paper's production departments, ultimately taking early retirement in a companywide buyout. He lived out one of his father's fantasies when he became a professional race car driver, but nearly died in 1984 when his car slammed into a wall at the Indianapolis 500. He eventually recovered from serious head injuries.
"When I came," recalled Day, the former editorial page editor, "I thought [Otis] was going to build a progressive newspaper dynasty like the Washington Post or the New York Times. And it became clear over the years that he did not have any such intention.
"He told me several times, and other people, that no Chandler would again be publisher of The Times," he added, "and I thought that was a curious thing to say, especially since some of the Chandler children seemed perfectly suited to be publisher, at least as suited as Otis."
In 1977, Chandler brought Tom Johnson, publisher of the Dallas Times-Herald and a former aide to President Johnson (no relation), to Los Angeles as president of The Times and heir apparent for publisher.
On March 5, 1980, Chandler announced that Johnson would become the fifth publisher of The Times — and the first since the paper's infancy who was not a member of the Otis or Chandler families. Chandler would assume the newly created position of editor in chief of Times Mirror and, on Jan. 1, 1981, he would succeed Murphy as chairman.
Chandler insisted that he wasn't giving up the journalistic chase or losing his competitive edge, simply assuming a larger corporate responsibility.
"Together," he wrote to Johnson after the changing of the guard, "we are going to push the New York Times off its perch."