Jim Klobuchar, columnist and U.S. senator's father, dies at 93

Gary Eichten's "Midday at Night" farewell
Former Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar(center) says goodbye to retiring MPR host Gary Eichten(right) during his farewell party at the Fitzgerald Theater in January 2012.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2012

Updated: May 13, 7 a.m. | Posted May 12, 3:57 p.m.

Jim Klobuchar, a longtime Minnesota newspaper reporter and columnist and the father of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, has died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Klobuchar died Wednesday at the Emerald Crest care facility in Burnsville, Minn., according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He was 93.

Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator, said that throughout his life her father was “a champion of those on the outside" and used his words to stand up for people. His career as a newspaper columnist spanned 30 years and 8,400 columns. He also traveled widely and often wrote about his adventures mountain climbing, camping and bicycling.

“Even to the end, as he lived the final chapter of his life with Alzheimer’s, he was still singing songs and telling incredible stories to my sister Meagan and me,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “He loved our state. He loved journalism. He loved sports and adventure. And we loved him.”

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In 2007, he spoke to MPR News host Gary Eichten about a collection of travel essays he'd just published.

"The thrust of a lot of my writing over the years has been to convince ordinary people that you don't have to be bionic, you don't have to be a super creature to enjoy the high country, to visit Mount Everest, not necessarily to climb it, to hike the Inca Trail," Jim Klobuchar said in the interview.

Jim Klobuchar
Sports writer Jim Klobuchar
Tom Weber | MPR News file

Jim Klobuchar grew up on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota.

He worked as a reporter in Bismarck, N.D., and for The Associated Press in Minnesota before taking a sports writing job for what is now the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1961. He retired from the Star Tribune in 1995.

Known for his wit and grace as a columnist, Klobuchar interviewed famous people from Ginger Rogers to Ronald Reagan. However, he stood out for chronicling the lives of everyday Minnesotans, or “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Amy Klobuchar said.

And the man who was a licensed pilot “led adventure trips from Minnesota’s bike trails to the mountains of Nepal,” the senator said.

At an event earlier Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz paused to remember Jim Klobuchar.

"I feel very blessed that I had the privilege over the last 20 years or so of getting to know Jim Klobuchar and spend some considerable time and his stories of mining and being a veteran and those things were inspiring to me," Walz said.

In her bid for president, Amy Klobuchar talked often about her father’s public struggles with alcoholism and how he helped others by sharing his story. Two years earlier, at a hearing for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, she mentioned her father's long road to sobriety before asking Kavanaugh whether he had ever blacked out from drinking.

Funeral arrangements are pending. The University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication will establish a scholarship in Klobuchar’s name, and in lieu of flowers is accepting donations in honor of his life.

Correction: (May 13, 2021): A previous version of this story contained incorrect information about accepted donations. The story has been updated.