Charles Stimson "Stim" Bullitt, who died Sunday at 89, helped shape Seattle in many ways, from his time as president of KING Broadcasting in the 1960s, to his political activism and philanthropy, to his work as an advocate of reviving downtown as a livable neighborhood.
He ran a television station, but strictly limited the time his children could watch TV. He landed on President Nixon’s “enemies list” and considered it a badge of honor. He was a businessman and developer, but also was passionate about the environment.
Charles Stimson “Stim” Bullitt, who died Sunday at 89, helped shape Seattle in many ways, from his time as president of KING Broadcasting in the 1960s to his political activism and philanthropy to his work as an advocate of reviving downtown as a livable neighborhood.
Though his interests were wide-ranging, the common thread was as simple as the three-word inscription displayed for years on the front door of his home: “Virtus et Veritas,” Latin for courage and truth.
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“It was carved right into the wood,” said a daughter, Dorothy Bullitt, of Seattle. “It’s what we saw every day when we walked out the door.”
Mr. Bullitt, attorney, author, judge, outdoorsman and broadcasting executive, died peacefully after a long illness, sitting near a window of his West Seattle home with a view of the Olympics, family members said.
His love of the outdoors and his passion for physical activity stayed strong in later life.
“He was a legend among rock climbers,” said longtime friend Bill Sumner, a retired computer-science researcher in Ellensburg. “He was climbing at a level most young people never achieve, well into his 80s.”
Sumner treasured his visits with Mr. Bullitt, with whom he spoke as recently as three weeks ago. “He was suffering from Alzheimer’s, so his memory was spotty. But there were times when the old, vibrant Stim was very much there.”
Among Mr. Bullitt’s many adventures was a climb of Alaska’s Mount McKinley in the 1980s with Sumner and retired Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Shelby Scates.
Scates, a friend of Mr. Bullitt’s since the 1950s, said, “I’ve met a lot of strong men in my life, and I’ve met a lot of smart men, too. But I’ve never met anyone who was as intellectually and physically extraordinary as he was.”
Scates was a University of Washington student in the early 1950s when he became intrigued with the energy and integrity of Mr. Bullitt, who at the time was making an unsuccessful run for Congress. “Politics is the lesser for his defeat,” Scates said. The two men shared countless climbing and sailing trips over the decades.
Mr. Bullitt was the eldest child of A. Scott Bullitt and KING founder Dorothy Stimson Bullitt.
He grew up in The Highlands, north of Seattle, and was educated at Yale University and the University of Washington Law School, according to HistoryLink.org.
He served in the Navy in World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart after suffering a shrapnel wound in the Philippines.
In 1961, he became president of KING-TV. He opposed the Vietnam War and many of the policies of President Nixon, which resulted in him being placed on Nixon’s “enemies list.”
Mr. Bullitt, who had started Seattle magazine and a film-production company, in 1972 founded the firm that would leave his strongest imprint on the city, Harbor Properties Inc. The company constructed more than 1,300 residences, including affordable housing and the signature Harbor Steps, connecting First Avenue and the central waterfront.
Doug Daley, Harbor Properties CEO, called Mr. Bullitt “a champion of urban life and an advocate for creating lasting communities that serve the public interest — a firm believer in developing places that adapt to the city’s surroundings and in forming strong community partnerships.”
As an attorney, Mr. Bullitt was known for his work on environmental and human-rights causes.
He authored several books, including a memoir, “River Dark and Bright,” and “To Be a Politician,” an exploration of politics as a vocation.
He retained his interest in politics. In a guest opinion column in The Seattle Times in 2002, he advised against the then-impending invasion of Iraq.
Survivors include his wife, Clementine “Tina” Hollingsworth Bullitt, and former wife Kay Bullitt, of Seattle; sister Harriet Bullitt, of Leavenworth, Chelan County; daughters Ashley Bullitt, of Port Townsend, Jill Bullitt Rigsbee, of Raleigh, N.C., and Dorothy Bullitt and Margaret Bullitt, both of Seattle; son Fred Nemo, of Portland; stepsons Dr. John Hollingsworth of Durham, N.C. and Grady Hollingsworth of El Campo, Tex., seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Another son, Ben Bullitt, died in 1981.
A memorial event will be scheduled later.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org