- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Philip Merrill, publisher and former diplomat whose sailboat was found adrift in the Chesapeake Bay on June 10, was declared dead yesterday after his body was found near Poplar Island. He was 72.

Mr. Merrill was born April 28, 1934, in Baltimore and grew up in New York and Connecticut. He graduated from Cornell University, which he attended on scholarship, in 1955 and from the Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development in 1963.

A publisher who thought of himself as a newsman first, Mr. Merrill began his journalism career as the managing editor of the Cornell University newspaper. After graduation and a stint in the Army, he worked for small newspapers in New Jersey.

In 1968, Mr. Merrill bought Capital-Gazette Newspapers and helped turn the company into an enterprise with a total circulation of about 300,000. The company now publishes six newspapers and Washingtonian magazine, and also operates the Capital Investment Co.

“He was passionate about journalism and what it is our job to do,” said Leslie Milk, lifestyle editor of the Washingtonian, who knew Mr. Merrill for more than 20 years.

Also a noted philanthropist, Mr. Merrill donated $10 million to the University of Maryland College of Journalism, which now bears his name. He gave $4 million to create the Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and donated $7.5 million to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, whose headquarters is named after him.

In addition to his publishing career, Mr. Merrill served as counselor to the undersecretary of defense for policy from 1981 to 1983, and as a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board from 1983 to 1990.

He represented the United States in negotiations on the Law of the Sea Conference, the International Telecommunications Union and various disarmament and exchange agreements with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Merrill also was a special assistant to the deputy secretary of state, served as the State Department’s senior intelligence analyst for South Asia and worked in the White House on national security affairs.

In 1988, the secretary of defense awarded Mr. Merrill the Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest civilian honor given by the department. From 1990 to 1992, he served as assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels.

He took leave from his publishing duties in 2002, when he was appointed by President Bush to head the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and served in the position until 2005.

Mr. Merrill also was on numerous boards and committees, including the University of Maryland Board of Visitors, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies board, the National Archives Foundation and the World Affairs Council of Washington.

Mr. Merrill was an avid and experienced sailor, a hobby he learned at the age of 7. Family and friends said he was a devoted father who liked to intellectually engage his children.

“Phil was very well known in Washington circles and would share those opportunities with the kids,” said Tom Marquardt, executive editor of the Annapolis Capital, who knew Mr. Merrill since 1977. “Their father would always make sure they were able to ask questions of the most noble people.”

Reese Cleghorn, former dean of the Maryland journalism school and a current professor there, said Mr. Merrill was like a “bull moose” at times and “boyish” at others.

“He was kind of an old-school kind of guy,” Mr. Cleghorn said. “He was not a button-down modern man, not a Harvard MBA. He had great instincts, [and was] very, very smart.

“He told me one time that he got along awfully well with his 13-year-old daughter, and he said, ‘That’s because I’m 13, too,’” Mr. Cleghorn said. And then, Mr. Merrill added, “The difference is, she’ll grow up.”

Mr. Merrill’s survivors include his wife, Eleanor, of Arnold, Md.; two daughters, Cathy Merrill Williams of the District and Nancy Merrill of Arlington; a son, Doug Merrill of Shelburne, Vt.; a sister; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW.

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