Mary Caperton Bingham, 90, matriarch of a family that built up a Louisville, Ky., publishing empire that was later torn apart. The civic leader and philanthropist had risen to greet those who had praised her at a Rotary dinner, and began her response by saying she was so flattered that "the best thing would be for a big pink cloud to come down and take me away." Then she collapsed. Nine years ago, her family was split by a bitter public conflict that resulted in the sale of its media empire, the cornerstone of which was the Courier-Journal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper. After her husband's death in 1988, she took over his role in the Mary and Barry Bingham Sr. Fund, which has now distributed $59 million to the arts, education and social programs. The Bingham media reign began in 1918, when Robert Worth Bingham bought the Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times. He started radio station WHAS in 1922 and later founded Standard Gravure, which printed Sunday magazines and advertising supplements. Barry Bingham Sr. took control in 1933 and started WHAS-TV in 1950. Dissent among the children surfaced a decade ago when daughter Sallie Bingham challenged her brother Barry Jr.'s control of the companies. Sallie and her sister, Eleanor Bingham Miller, were ousted from the board of directors. Sallie Bingham turned down a family offer of $26.3 million for her stock, and in 1986 Bingham Sr. decided to sell the company. On April 18 in Louisville of a heart attack.