RICHARD Ashenheim, who served on The Gleaner's board of directors for nearly 40 years, died yesterday in Bermuda, a family spokesperson said. He was 80 years old.
Mr. Ashenheim, who went to live in Bermuda in early 2006, is survived by his wife Ursula, sons Michael and Lewis, and four grandchildren.
Oliver Clarke, managing director of The Gleaner, said the publication and Jamaica have lost an outstanding person and administrator.
Said Mr. Clarke: "Richard Ashenheim was an invaluable director and honorary chairman. He was a champion of press freedom. We depended on his legal advice in the most difficult of times."
Mr. Clarke noted that the Ashenheim family has played a unique role in The Gleaner's development over many generations. Lewis Ashenheim was chairman for 32 years from 1909; and Sir Neville for the next 23 years. Leslie Ashenheim chaired the newspaper's board for another 10 years and then was honorary chairman.
Richard Ashenheim was a lawyer by profession, but also excelled as a sports administrator, serving as president of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association. He was a long-serving member of the International Association of Athletics Federation's arbitration panel, and covered eight Olympic Games as a journalist for The Gleaner.
Today, the Richard Ashenheim Cup, which is run annually for two-year-olds over 1500 metres, will be run in his honour at Caymanas Park.
In a December 2006 interview with The Gleaner, Mr. Ashenheim cited Jamaica's troubling crime situation as the reason he and his wife left the country. He said they also wanted to be near their children, one of whom lives in Florida and the other in London. Mr. Ashenheim's departure meant it was the first time since The Gleaner was founded in 1834 that an Ashenheim was not on The Gleaner's board of directors.
For his part, John Leiba, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, described Mr. Ashenheim as "one of those prominent members of the Bar.
"He was an outstanding legal luminary especially in the area of libel and slander. He was a man of many parts - an avid sportsman and one of the most outstanding statisticians not only in Jamaica but the Caribbean," Leiba added.
The first Ashenheim to come to Jamaica was his great-great-grandfather, Lewis, a Scotsman of Jewish descent. Lewis settled here in 1820, becoming medical officer for Trelawny where he is buried.
Richard Ashenheim was the eldest of the three sons of Sir Neville Ashenheim. George, the youngest, is chairman of Lascelles Group of Companies; Edward, the other brother, died in 1996. Mr. Ashenheim was a past student of Jamaica College and Oxford University. He read law at the latter and was admitted to the Jamaican Bar in 1950, representing The Gleaner in commercial, libel and tax cases.
He was appointed a director at The Gleaner in 1962, and became a full director five years later. On several occasions he acted as chairman, including in the turbulent 1970s when the paper came under pressure from the socialist government of Prime Minister Michael Manley.
Mr. Ashenheim believed that the 1976 state of emergency laws initiated by the Manley administration challenged press freedom in Jamaica.
"It was the most difficult time for The Gleaner because we had to comply to some extent, but we got out of it by shaming the government. We showed them that they were being too fussy," he said.
At the time, The Gleaner had a formidable team of columnists, including David DaCosta, Morris Cargill and John Hearne, who were critical of Manley's policies. Things came to a head on September 24, 1979 when the Prime Minister led supporters on a march on the newspaper's North Street offices. Mr. Ashenheim said not even the sight of a fist-shaking Manley intimidated The Gleaner administrators.
They thought we were anti-government, but I thought if they were misbehaving, we had the right to damn well attack them," Mr. Ashenheim said.