Nan Tucker McEvoy, last of founding family to run S.F. Chronicle, dies at 95

Nan Tucker McEvoy, last of founding family to run S.F. Chronicle, dies at 95
Nan Tucker McEvoy was the last de Young heir to chair the San Francisco Chronicle. (Eric Risberg, Associated Press)

Nan Tucker McEvoy, the last member of the San Francisco Chronicle's founding family to head the newspaper, died Thursday at her apartment in the city after a long convalescence. She was 95.

Her son, Nion McEvoy, publisher of Chronicle Books, confirmed her death.


Nan McEvoy had also been a prominent olive oil producer, philanthropist and Democratic Party activist.

The granddaughter of M.H. de Young, a founder of the Chronicle, McEvoy was the longtime chair of the board of Chronicle Publishing, which included the morning daily and other media holdings.

She was born Phyllis Ann Tucker on July 15, 1919, in San Mateo. Her mother, also Phyllis, was the daughter of M.H. de Young; her father, Nion, was a prominent businessman in the airline industry. She attended a convent school in San Rafael and was bound for the life of a socialite, which did not interest her.

In 1944, when she was 25, McEvoy asked her uncle, Chronicle publisher George Cameron, for a job at the paper.

"He offered to buy me a new hat if I would just leave," McEvoy said in an interview with Editor & Publisher. "When that didn't work, he said he could get me a slot on the women's page. I told him that was the last place I wanted to work, so I finally landed a job on the news side."

For the next several years she worked as a reporter at the Chronicle, the New York Herald Tribune and the Washington Post and then married publishing executive Dennis McEvoy in 1948. The couple had one son before the marriage ended in divorce.

Nan McEvoy lived for four decades in Washington, D.C., and became active in Democratic Party politics and the Peace Corps in its earliest days. She was appointed special assistant to the director, Sargent Shriver.

She became board chair of Chronicle Publishing in 1981, after inheriting a majority share of stock. By the 1990s the newspaper's finances were faltering and some family members suggested selling the company. McEvoy resisted and moved back to San Francisco in an effort to take charge.

"She seemed to be the last member of the family who cared about the people who worked here, and that was important to us," longtime reporter Carl Nolte said in the Chronicle's obituary.

But in 1995 she was forced off the board by her cousins, and in 1999 the newspaper was sold to the rival Hearst Corp. for $500 million. McEvoy became director emeritus of Chronicle Publishing and turned her energy to olive ranching.

She had earlier bought a 550-acre ranch outside Petaluma in Marin County and imported 12,000 olive trees from Tuscany. With the help of an Italian expert, she began producing premium extra-virgin olive oil.

"I find making oil very exciting," McEvoy said in a 1998 interview with The Times. "I love the trees. I think they're beautiful. And it is a happy day when you finally press the oil and taste it and find that you have made something fine."

McEvoy was also committed to public service and philanthropy and served as a board member of the University of California, San Francisco Foundation, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the San Francisco Symphony and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, among other organizations.

Besides her son, McEvoy is survived by three grandchildren.