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Journalist left mark on state

Robert S. McCord, a journalist known for his efforts to open local and state government to every citizen, died Saturday morning of complications from pneumonia.

McCord, 84, earned his place in Arkansas history by championing Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act, a powerful tool for the public and journalists. As publisher of the North Little Rock newspaper, he was the plaintiff in the first successful test of the law, Laman v. McCord, over failure of the North Little Rock City Council to meet in public.

He helped draft the FOIA and was a moving force in it being signed into law in 1967, serving as a watchful guardian, especially against illegal and unethical conduct in the years that followed.

A 1951 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he served as editor for the school’s paper, The Arkansas Traveler. Drafted during the Korean War, he was a journalist for the Army.

He had a long career in Arkansas journalism, buying The North Little Rock Times in 1958, and running it for a decade. He moved to the Democrat in 1971, serving as editor from 1974 until 1978. He then joined the news staff of the Arkansas Gazette and remained in the newsroom until the Gannett Co. closed it in 1991.

He later wrote columns for The Arkansas Times for 12 years, but to many of us in the business he was simply an advocate for good journalism.

He viewed his profession as a calling, son Jeff McCord said. He strongly opposed bias in the news columns and even prohibited his children from displaying bumper stickers and yard signs during election season.

His support for the FOIA was based on the public’s right to have its business conducted in public, not in some back room. We all benefited from his career choice.