The Cambrian

Rancher George Hearst, 84, eldest W.R. grandson, dies

George Hearst Jr.
George Hearst Jr.

George Randolph Hearst Jr. — a north county rancher who was chairman of the board of Hearst Corp., president of The Hearst Foundation and a director of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation — died Monday, June 25, at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto of complications following a stroke. He was 84.

According to, George Hearst became ill June 16 at his ranch home in Paso Robles.

He was the eldest grandson of the late William Randolph Hearst, who established the family’s multimedia empire and built Hearst Castle.

George R. Hearst had been deeply involved with Hearst Corp. since 1948 and served as a director for more than 53 years.

He was also a newspaperman. During his career at Hearst, he served on the staff of the San Francisco Examiner, as publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner, as business manager and publisher of the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Express, as publisher of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and as vice president of Hearst Corp. and head of its real estate activities.

“George was an enthusiastic supporter of the corporation’s growth and diversification strategies,” said Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of Hearst Corp.

“As chairman of the board, he brought his vast experience and wisdom to bear during a time of incredible growth and helped guide us through periods of enormous change. Although always calling every situation as he saw it, George was the most supportive and steadfast chairman a CEO could possibly have. He will be greatly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of working with him.”

George R. Hearst Jr., was born in San Francisco on July 13, 1927, to Blanche Wilbur and George R. Hearst Sr., eldest son of W.R. and Millicent Hearst.

George Hearst Jr. joined the staff of the Los Angeles Examiner in 1948, then the San Francisco Examiner for two years and the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Express, where he was named business manager in 1957.

By 1958, Hearst was a vice president of Hearst Publishing Co. Inc., a director of Hearst Corp. and a director of The Hearst Foundation. He became publisher of both the Los Angeles Herald-Express and the Los Angeles Examiner in 1960, and publisher of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in 1965.

After ser ving as vice president of Hearst Corp. and managing its extensive real estate holdings, he succeeded his uncle, Randolph A. Hearst, as chairman in 1996 and served in that capacity until his death.

George Hearst was a rancher at heart and was San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen Association Cattleman of the Year in 2003. He was well known for his cattle knowledge and skill as a breeder, and for his willingness to help the agricultural community. Every year, he supported ranching youngsters by buying livestock at the California Mid-State Fair.

In 2008, George and his son Stephen paid for a large animal enclosure at Coast Union High School, making it possible for the FFA group there to bring heifers on campus for the first time in 20 years.

Contributions by George Hearst also paid for several new buildings to the grounds at the California Mid-State Fairgrounds.

George Hearst had been inter viewed at length at several San Simeon locations in March for a film commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Hearst Corp.

Hearst also had spent nearly 10 years in the military, first enlisting during World War II and serving in the Naval Air Corps, and then serving in the Army during the Korean War, including service as a combat helicopter pilot.

According to biographical information released for his Cattleman of the Year award, Hearst was shipped to Korea in December 1952.

In March of 1953, then a warrant officer, he flew his helicopter within 300 yards of enemy lines to resupply a battalion of troops marooned near the front line.

According to his son Stephen Hearst, George Hearst was the first helicopter pilot to ferry soldiers into and out of battle. He flew more than 300 combat missions while in Korea, returning in May of 1954.

He is survived by his twin sister, Phoebe Hearst Cooke; wife, Susan, and her daughter Jessica Gonzalves and her two children; his three children, George R. Hearst III, Stephen T. Hearst and Erin Hearst Knudsen; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchil d r en. Hearst was predeceased by his oldest child, Mary “Bunny” Hearst Ives, who died in 2004.

Services are to be private.

A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

Donations may be made to McCloud Healthcare Clinic Inc., 116 W. Minnesota Ave., P.O. Box 1143, McCloud, CA 96057. The clinic is near the Hearst Corp. Wyntoon estate, just south of Mt. Shasta.