Edward L. Gaylord, a businessman and philanthropist who expanded the Daily Oklahoman newspaper he inherited from his father into a business empire that included Nashville’s Opryland, has died. He was 83.
Gaylord died Sunday night of complications from pancreatic cancer, 10 days after stepping down as publisher and editor of the newspaper.
The paper had been under his and his father’s leadership since 1903, when E.K. Gaylord bought a piece of the 9-year-old publication and became business manager and then publisher and editor.
Edward L. Gaylord assumed the titles and leadership of the Oklahoma Publishing Co. in 1974 after the death of his father at the age of 101. By that time, the younger Gaylord had begun diversifying the company.
In the 1970s, he established the Gaylord Production Co. in Los Angeles, which produced the syndicated TV series “Hee Haw,” starring Roy Clark and Buck Owens, and the “Glen Campbell Show.”
In 1983, the company acquired the Opryland complex in Nashville for $240 million. The complex included the Nashville Network (now the National Network) and Country Music Television, both of which were later sold; CMT Europe cable networks; and the Opryland Music Group, as well as the Opryland Hotel, the Opryland Theme Park and the showboat General Jackson.
Born in 1919 in Oklahoma City, Gaylord graduated from Stanford University in 1941 and briefly attended Harvard Business School before joining the Army during World War II.
Although he said his father never pushed him into the newspaper, Gaylord began working there in high school, and except for college and the Army, never left. He rose through circulation and advertising, and by 1948 was executive vice president, assistant general manager, director and treasurer of the publishing company.
His diversification efforts included television stations in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., Houston and Seattle-Tacoma; radio stations in New Mexico and Oregon; an oil and gas division, Publisher’s Petroleum; a real estate division; and interests in professional sports, including a hockey team in Nashville, the Texas Rangers baseball team and San Antonio Spurs basketball team.
A civic leader and philanthropist, Gaylord, among other gifts, donated $22 million to the University of Oklahoma for a journalism and communications school and $12 million to help rebuild its football stadium; and some $40 million to Oklahoma Christian University for various uses.
A widower, he is survived by four children, one sister and nine grandchildren.