John S. Murray, a former state legislator and publisher of community newspapers in Seattle, died Wednesday at his home. He was 82. An avid skier and...

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John S. Murray, a former state legislator and publisher of community newspapers in Seattle, died Wednesday at his home. He was 82.

An avid skier and supporter of education and environmental causes, Mr. Murray bought the Queen Anne News in 1953 and built it into a publishing company that owned several community newspapers and printed dozens of others.

He died in Seattle from complications from a stroke he suffered last year and, more recently, pneumonia.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Mr. Murray, a Republican, spent four years in the state House of Representatives and eight years in the state Senate. He used weekly editorials in the Queen Anne and Magnolia papers to voice his political opinions.

“On Wednesdays, everyone got his opinion on the front page on their front doorsteps,” said his oldest son, Jeff Murray, of Orcas Island.

Mr. Murray belonged to many civic organizations, was president of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and chairman of the Oceanographic Commission of Washington.

During his political career, he championed environmental legislation and helped establish 22 community colleges and The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Mr. Murray sold his publishing company in the late 1980s.

Norma Zimmer, who attended Lincoln High School with Mr. Murray, lost touch with him for years but reconnected on the ski slopes of Sun Valley, Idaho. Eventually she and her husband moved to Park City, Utah, where Mr. Murray and his wife, Jean Colman, owned a condo at the foot of the ski slope.

Zimmer, known as the sparkly “champagne lady” on the Lawrence Welk Show for more than 20 years, remembers her friend as full of laughter and advice, mostly about the stock market and skiing.

“We’ve skied together all these years, and it was hours and hours of fun,” Zimmer said. “I’m so sorry he’s gone.”

Mr. Murray was born Aug. 18, 1925, in Albany, Mo. His family moved to Seattle when he was 12.

He served in the Army during World War II, building bridges in Europe for advancing U.S. troops. After he returned in 1946, Mr. Murray graduated from the University of Washington.

An outdoor enthusiast, he climbed many peaks, including Mount Rainier.

Mr. Murray married Jean Colman, a longtime family friend and publishing-company employee, in 1999. They divided their time among homes in Seattle, Park City and the Phoenix area.

He has four children by his first wife, Ginny Hesketh Murray. Their oldest daughter, Nancy Rowland, of Seattle, said her father was a stickler for fairness in his work and family life.

“He always said he had four favorites, because there were four kids,” she said.

Survivors include his sons, Jeff Murray and Robert Murray, of Lake Forest Park; two daughters, Rowland and Jill Hamilton, of Tacoma; a brother, Alan Keith Murray, of Maryland; two stepchildren; and 11 grandchildren.

The family plans to hold a private celebration of his life next month.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com