Founded first newsprint recycling plant in Garfield
Born into a newspaper family almost a century ago, Richard Scudder spent a lifetime working with words — and just as notably, the paper they were printed on, as a pioneer in newsprint recycling.
Mr. Scudder died Wednesday at the age of 99 at his home in Navesink. He had a journalism career that took him from a Depression-era reporting job at his family's paper, The Newark Evening News, to the chairmanship of Denver-based MediaNews Group, which owns 61 newspapers in 11 states.
Mr. Scudder and his MediaNews co-founder, William Dean Singleton, formerly owned the Herald News of Passaic. The Record bought the Herald News, along with 11 weeklies, and formed North Jersey Media Group in 1997.
In the 1950s, Mr. Scudder began researching ways to wash ink from newsprint so it could be recycled. In 1961, he founded Garden State Paper, the world's first newsprint recycling plant, on the Passaic River in Garfield. Mr. Scudder recalled in an interview with The Record in 2001 that his competitors were skeptical.
"The paper industry laughed itself sick," he said. Today, more than 70 percent of newspapers are recycled.
The Garden State Paper plant was later sold to the Houston energy giant Enron Corp., and closed abruptly in December 2001, as Enron collapsed amid reports of fraudulent accounting.
Mr. Scudder remained vital, curious and active deep into his 90s, retiring only in 2009, according to Singleton, who founded MediaNews with Mr. Scudder when he was already 70.
"His energy level was unbelievable," Singleton said.
At age 68, Mr. Scudder climbed to the base camp at Mount Everest, 22,000 feet elevation, according to his daughter, Jean Scudder.
"He was in terrific shape and earned a salary into his 90s," she said. "He used to joke about running for Congress when he turned 100. & He was a man who always looked forward. He was very active and involved in life for a very long time."
Mr. Scudder was born May 13, 1913, in Newark. His grandfather founded the Newark Evening News in 1882, and the paper grew into the state's largest and most influential.
After graduating from Princeton in 1935 and working for a time at the Boston Herald, Mr. Scudder joined the News in 1938 as a reporter. He served in the Army during World War II, then returned to his family's newspaper, becoming publisher in 1952, a post he held for 20 years, until the paper shut down.
He met Singleton — then the 25-year-old publisher of the now-defunct Paterson News — in 1977, because Garden State Paper supplied newsprint to the News. The two hit it off, despite an age difference of almost 40 years, and teamed up to buy newspapers, starting with the Gloucester County Times in 1983 and the Herald News in 1985.
They ultimately created MediaNews, a privately owned company whose holdings include The Denver Post, The Detroit News and San Jose Mercury News. The company's newspapers have a combined daily circulation of 2.3 million, making it one of the nation's largest newspaper companies.
"He was an excellent businessman, but his interest was primarily on the news side," Singleton recalled. "He was a champion of investigative reporting and First Amendment issues."
Singleton recalled that when a judge in York, Pa., ordered one of their reporters to turn over confidential sources, Mr. Scudder shrugged off the judge's threat to fine the company $50,000 a day unless the reporter complied.
"He simply would not bend on principle," Singleton said.
Mr. Scudder, according to his son, Charles, was "computer-phobic" and "barely read anything online" but was an advocate of newspapers' moving onto the Web.
"His overwhelming thought was that newspapers provide a public service, whatever format they are in," Charles Scudder said.
Mr. Scudder sold the Newark News and Garden State Paper to Media General Inc. of Richmond, Va., which closed the newspaper in 1972. Media General operated Garden State Paper until 2000, when Enron bought it. Enron closed the plant in 2001, throwing 250 people out of work.
New town houses have recently been constructed on the 13-acre site of the old recycling plant.
Mr. Scudder had lived in Navesink for 60 years. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 2004. He is survived by his children, Jean Scudder of Readfield, Maine; Carolyn Miller of Devon, Pa.; Holly Difani of Arroyo de Seco, N.M.; and Charles Scudder of Portland, Ore.; eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Arrangements are by Thompson Memorial Home, Red Bank. Burial will be private; a memorial service is planned for July 28 at Rumson Presbyterian Church.
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