John Turner Sargent, Sr., American publisher died he was 87
John Turner Sargent, Sr. was president and CEO of the Doubleday and Company publishing house from 1963 to 1978, taking over from the previous president, Douglas Black died he was 87.
He led the expansion of the company from “a modest, family-controlled
business to an industry giant with interests extending into broadcasting
and baseball.” A socialite, he was active in New York’s cultural circles.
Early life and education
John Turner Sargent was born probably on Long Island, New York and was raised in Cedarhurst. He was the son of Charles S. Sargent and his wife. His paternal grandfather was a botanist, Charles Sprague Sargent, the first director of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.
His father became successful in finance as a partner in Hornblower & Weeks, a securities concern in New York. The young Sargent attended the private St. Mark’s School and a year at Harvard College before enlisting in the Navy during World War II.
Marriage and family
In May 1953 Sargent married Neltje Doubleday, who was 18. She was the granddaughter of the late Frank N. Doubleday, who founded the Doubleday publishing company in 1897. The couple had a daughter Ellen and son John Turner Sargent, Jr..
After they divorced in 1965, Neltje Doubleday Sargent moved with
their children to Wyoming. She remarried, bought a ranch, restored and
operated the historic Sheridan Inn, and established herself as an abstract painter. In 2005 she received one of the annual Wyoming Governor’s Art Awards.
After the war, Sargent started working at Doubleday as a copywriter.
He soon advanced to higher positions and had been there for years before
his marriage to Neltje. He made his career in book publishing at Doubleday and Company, which he led through a major expansion and diversification. He ranged from editing the poetry of Theodore Roethke to publishing bestsellers by Stephen King and others; in the 1970s, he recruited Jackie Kennedy as an editor.
In 1963 he became president and CEO
of the Doubleday and Company publishing house. In the summer of 1972
his former wife Neltje Doubleday Kings led a shareholder effort to take
the company public, but it was defeated. Her mother and brother
supported Sargent in keeping the company privately held.
While Sargent served as president and CEO until 1978, he led the
company through a major expansion, expanding its publishing and
diversifying its businesses. As reported by Bruce Weber,
“By 1979, the year after he left the presidency and was made
chairman, Doubleday was publishing 700 books annually. The company had
bought a textbook subsidiary and the Dell Publishing Company, which
included Dell paperbacks. It was operating more than a dozen book clubs,
including the mammoth Literary Guild; more than two dozen Doubleday bookshops across the country; and four book printing and binding companies.”
Sargent also led the company’s expansion into “radio and television broadcasting and film production.”
In 1978 Sargent became chairman of the company, serving until 1985. Working in partnership with Nelson Doubleday, Jr., then president, Sargent supported purchase of the Mets. In 1986, when Doubleday was sold to Bertelsmann, he became chairman of the executive committee at Doubleday.
Sargent was active in supporting literary and cultural institutions
in the city. Deeply involved in its social life, he was described as a
socialite and for years hosted a Christmas Eve party strictly for single
He died in 2012, aged 87, after recent years of frail health following a stroke. He was survived by, among others, his wife Elizabeth, two children and grandchildren, and two stepchildren.
Legacy and honors
The award has been increased to $10,000; with $1,000 each for
finalists on the shortlist. As of 2012, it is funded by Nancy Dunnan, a
board member at the Center and non-fiction author. She has named it also
for her father Ray Flaherty, a journalist with the Chicago Tribune. It is now called the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.
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