WASHINGTON — Ruth Tankersley, a scion of the McCormick media dynasty who served a tumultuous 19 months as a newspaper publisher in Washington and for more than six decades was a celebrated breeder of Arabian horses, died Feb. 5 at her home in Tucson. She was 91.
A daughter, biographer Kristie Miller, confirmed the death and said her mother had Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to her connection to the Chicago Tribune publishing empire, Mrs. Tankersley descended from a formidable political family, as well.
Her parents and stepfather served in Congress. So did her maternal grandfather, Mark Hanna, a Republican political kingmaker who had been an adviser to President McKinley and a force in the building of the Panama Canal.
Bazy McCormick Miller, as she was known in the 1940s after marrying for the first time, was prepared by her uncle, Robert McCormick, to be heir apparent to the Tribune company. The Tribune was one of the world’s most powerful newspapers, a champion of an isolationist foreign policy and an influential voice in the Republican Party.
Robert McCormick, a bombastic and mercurial publisher, was childless and doted on his niece. She got early training running a daily newspaper with her first husband in La Salle, Ill., and organizing ‘‘Twenties for Taft’’ clubs to support 1948 GOP presidential candidate Robert Taft. In 1949, her uncle tapped her to run the Tribune’s newly purchased Washington Times-Herald. She was 28.
The Times-Herald, the Tribune’s chief presence in the nation’s capital, was known for its sensationalistic coverage of politics. Its circulation of 278,000 made it one of the city’s biggest newspapers, a major competitor with the Washington Star, The Washington Post, and the Washington Daily News.
Robert McCormick bought the tabloid, he said, to bring ‘‘the American point of view’’ to Washington.
In a nod to her uncle’s well-known political and geographic sympathies, Bazy Miller described herself as a daughter of the Midwest, a region that was ‘‘the heart and soul and stability of the country.’’ Washington, she added, was in contrast ‘‘a parasite community.’’
Following dictates from Chicago, the paper was a mouthpiece for right-wing causes.
Bazy Miller’s newspaper career was abbreviated. In April 1951, she was recalled to Chicago and feuded bitterly with her uncle. She said she was tired of his meddling.
‘‘I understood when I went to the Times-Herald I was to have full control,’’ she said at the time. ‘‘That control was not given me.’’
The Tankersleys began a long career as horse breeders in Montgomery County, Maryland. Their propertywas a lively gathering place for soirees and Republican fund-raisers.
Mrs. Tankersley’s political allegiances shifted slowly over the decades and, in 2008, she voted for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.