J.D. Swartz, a former co-owner of the Forsyth County News and Dawson County News, died Thursday in his native Tennessee. He was 87.
Swartz and business partner Charles Morris Sr. purchased the Forsyth County newspaper, along with papers in Dawson County and Barrow County, from the New York Times Company in January 1994. Swartz remained affiliated with the Forsyth and Dawson publications until they were purchased by current owner Metro Market Media in 2018.
Swartz had a long and successful career in newspapers and media with nationwide impact on the industry.
After graduating high school in his native Johnson City, TN, Swartz served three years in the Merchant Marines before entering the newspaper business.
He began his newspaper career with an entry level job as a classified ad salesman in Bristol, TN in 1958. He rose from that humble beginning to become president of Worrell Newspapers, which owned 23 daily newspapers, 14 weekly newspapers and three television stations when it was sold to the New York Times company in 1982. He had joined Worrell as a publisher and vice president in 1975.
After Worrell was sold, Swartz joined with long-time friend Morris, owner of Morris Multimedia headquartered in Savannah, to form Swartz-Morris Media and to purchase the north Georgia publications.
“J.D. was a dear friend, excellent business partner and outstanding owner and operator of newspapers,” said Charles H. Morris Sr.
Swartz also had an impact on the career of Charles H. Morris Jr., owner of Metro Market Media which now owns the Forsyth and Dawson newspapers.
“J.D. was an amazing mentor, teacher and dear family friend. He will be missed by many, and I am grateful for the influence he played in my life and the lives of others,” said Charles H. Morris Jr.
Former FCN publisher Dennis Stockton was hired by Swartz-Morris to oversee the papers purchased in 1994 and worked closely with Swartz.
“I’ve known J.D. for more than 30 years and worked for him for 20. He was a huge influence on me, both professionally and personally. He was the most generous person I’ve ever known and made me part of his family. I will definitely miss him,” said Stockton.
John Hall, another former FCN publisher, also spoke warmly of his working relationship with Swartz.
“Throughout my career, so many of my colleagues knew of Mr. Swartz. I was fortunate enough to have the privilege of actually working with him, and for that I am thankful. He was almost legendary in the newspaper business,” said Hall.
In addition to newspaper ownership, Swartz also formed Swartz Media Consultants, which provided consulting services to media companies and was a newspaper broker.
A long-time resident of Johnson City, he was active in the community there, serving on the board of directors for many community organizations, as well as the Bank of Tennessee.
He served on the East Tennessee State University Business Board of Advisors as well as the ETSU Foundation and the President’s Trust. ETSU bestowed him with the title of Honorary Alumni in 1995.