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James Neville Compton


1941 - 2014 | Obituary Condolences
James Neville Compton Obituary
James Neville Compton

On Monday, March 17 the Seattle community lost a friend, a great journalist, and a public servant. Jim Compton, former KING-5 commentator and producer and former Seattle City Councilmember, died suddenly at the age of 72.

Compton was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon on April 2, 1941. He was a graduate of Reed College in 1964 and the Columbia School of Journalism. He earned money for college as an ordinary seaman in the United States Merchant Marine, and he carried his union card all his life.

Compton was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and reported on dissident voices fighting the Communist regime from Romania in 1968. He was the Assistant Managing Editor of the Rome Daily American in Italy from 1969 to 1973 where he studied both Italian and Romanian.

After returning to the United States, Compton quickly rose in the ranks at TV stations in Portland and Seattle, and then became the Washington Bureau Chief for KING-5 television. Compton then became a foreign correspondent for NBC News based in Cairo and in London. He learned Arabic and reported on global events from Communist Hungary, South Africa, Kenya, Lebanon, Jerusalem, Iraq, Iran, Jordan and other places in the Middle East, and Moscow and the former Soviet Union, among others. Compton often reported on civil unrest and from active war zones, and kept a bullet-riddled Beirut street sign as a reminder of the danger he survived to bring important, incisive news reports to the American public.

Compton returned to the northwest in 1984 as a commentator and producer for KING-5. He wrote and produced more than 400 episodes of his weekly public affairs program, "The Compton Report," and 12 primetime documentaries. His work at KING-5 earned a dozen regional Emmy awards and the prestigious Columbia DuPont Award. In 1997, Compton joined the PBS NewsHour as a correspondent and reported on a variety of cultural and political issues from Pacific Northwest.

In 1999, Compton traded his work in public affairs as a journalist and broadcaster to take on a new and challenging role in public affairs as a Seattle City Councilmember. While on the council, Compton led the investigation into the city's handling of 1999 WTO protests and had oversight of issues involving Seattle's electric and water utilities, police accountability, cable franchises and public access to technology, the city's annual budget, and many more.

Compton retired from the Seattle City Council in 2006 to return to Romania. He received a second Fulbright award to interview many of the political and literary figures he met during his research and reporting in the late 60s. He traveled to Romania and several times to research and film a documentary on the continuing plight of the Roma (gypsy) people in post-Communist Eastern Europe and the Roma diaspora from India.

For the last three years, Jim directed his prodigious energies into completing a book on the Modoc Indian War fought along the Oregon-California border in 1873. Compton uncovered new facts about this tragic, bloody episode of U.S. history and recently completed the manuscript. Compton's family and literary agent hope to publish Compton's final work soon.

On January 1, 2004, Jim Compton was overjoyed when he married Carol Arnold, a Seattle attorney. Jim and Carol began their romance over an unlikely shared interest in electric utility management and oversight. They were married and spent 10 happy years together.

Jim is survived by his wife Carol, his brother Bill Compton and sister-in-law Nancy Carver, and family members Lynn Compton, George Compton, and Jack Compton. He will be sorely missed by all of his extended family, including step-grandchildren that he treasured as his own-Lauren, Zachary and Nelly.

A memorial service and celebration of Jim's life will be held at Seattle Town Hall, 1119 8th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101 on Saturday, March 29 at 10:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Jim Compton may be made to the Seattle Parks Foundation-Yesler Swamp or the UW Foundation-Yesler Swamp (yeslerswamp.org).
Published in The Seattle Times from Mar. 24 to Mar. 25, 2014
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