(April 18, 1916 – July 12, 2011)
Pioneer in television news broadcasting and head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications from 1965 – 1977.
James “Jim” Schwartz was born in Fenton, Iowa. He received a degree in Ag Journalism in 1941 and a degree in History in 1960. As part of a journalism family, he edited small town newspapers in Fenton, Denison, Harlan, and Rockwell City, as well as serving as editor and chief of the Iowa State Daily while he was in journalism school.
Following a stint in the Army, Schwartz returned to Iowa State College (now University) as an assistant professor of journalism to work at WOI radio and television, then owned by Iowa State College. He was a pioneer in television news broadcasting. He became head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications in 1965, but stepped down as chair in 1977 before retiring in 1979 as Emeritus Professor.
Several sources speak of Schwartz as a champion of the First Amendment and freedom of the press. He backed the Iowa State Daily student staff as they wrote about support of Vietnam protests and printing “four letter words” in the early 1970s despite community and legislative criticism.
After retirement he started the first Outdoor Journalism program at ISU, reflecting on his personal passion for the outdoors and the environment. That passion continued in his retirement to Ten Mile Lake in Cass County Minnesota where he pursued his interests in woodworking, hunting, fishing, and photography. His work as a journalist continued as he edited the lake’s newsletter.
Richard Volkmer, a graduate student under Schwartz in the late 1960s offered this testimony. “James W. Schwartz was a courtly gentleman with old-fashioned manners who spoke softly and thoughtfully in a certain measured drawl, but his voice had great timber and always carried authority. He led the Department of Technical Journalism with grace, dignity, and vision during difficult times for our country and the university. Touching many lives in that position, he is perhaps best remembered by the eulogy characterization that he was a "dream-maker who launched lives." During his tenure, Jim took the Department to its next level and launched an entire new generation of professional young journalists out across America and beyond to work their trade.”
Iowa State University established the Schwartz Award in 1978. The award is made annually by the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication for distinguished service to journalism and communication. Recipients have included four Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished broadcast journalists, authors, advertising and public relations executives, and newspaper and magazine publishers.
James W. Schwartz, obituary, The Des Moines Register, Saturday, June 18, 2011.
“ISU remembers master communicator today” The Des Moines Register, Saturday, September 17, 2011.
“Legendary ISU journalism leader Schwartz remembered for passion, dedication” Iowa State Daily, July 18, 2011.
“I.S.U. Paper To Spell Out Profanity” The Des Moines Register, Saturday, February 8, 1969.
Richard Volkmer, personal communication, September 27, 2017.