Sam Jameson, former president of the FCCJ and life member of the Club, died on April 19 in Tokyo of a stroke. He was 76.
Sam first joined the Club in 1963 when he arrived here as the first Tokyo bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune. He then moved to the Los Angeles Times as Tokyo bureau chief in 1971. Before getting elected as Club president in1973 he served on several committees and spent two terms as Secretary and one term as chairman of the FPIJ. One of his proudest achievements was helping to arrange the first-ever formal press conference of the Showa Emperor with the foreign press in 1971. Since leaving the L.A. Times in 1996 he worked as a freelancer until his stroke.
Sam was born in Pittsburgh, PA., on Aug. 9, 1936, and graduated from Northwestern University’s school of journalism. He worked at the head office of the Chicago Tribune for one year before being drafted into the U.S. Army. That brought him to Tokyo, where he worked for Pacific Stars and Stripes from November 1960. He served as everything from copy editor to news editor until his discharge from the army in 1962, then received an extended leave of absence to remain in Japan and continue studying Japanese. After about a year as a special student at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, he was recalled to Chicago for consultations at the Tribune’s head office before coming to Tokyo as the paper’s bureau chief in August, 1963. He lived here ever since.
SAM WAS ONE OF MY CLOSEST FRIENDS. I first met him when we were neophyte journos in Chicago in 1960, and succeed ed him at his kind recommendation as Far East correspondent for the Chicago Tribune when he moved to the LA Times in 1971. I maintained close contact with him over the decades since. As a correspondent, Sam focused on Japan but also visited Korea quite often and ranged to SE Asia, including Vietnam before “the fall” of Saigon in 1975. He gave me invaluable material re: the over throw of Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk for a book I did in 1971 and was generous with other insights, opinions as well.
Don Kirk, Christian Science Monitor, Seoul
SAM MESMERIZED ME WITH HIS knowledge of Japan and the Japanese language. We officed next door to each other in the Yomiuri Shimbun building and, through clouds of Golden Bat smoke, I heard his views on every issue of the day. My life as both a reporter and a man was enriched by Sam’s companionship and collegiality. Some sort of award for committing journalism in Japan should be named after him.
Mike “Buck” Tharp, FCCJ president, 1989-90
ONCE THERE WAS A BRIEFING FOR A dozen reporters by either a senior LDP or gaimusho official. Taizo Watanabe, (later the consul general in Los Angeles), was translating. At one point he uncertainly looked to Sam after translating and said, “Was that right, Jameson-san?”
John Needham, former UPI, Tokyo
SAM WAS SINGLEHANDEDLY GRILL ing a defense agency official at a fancy bistro near the U.S. embassy one day when he suddenly paused, aghast, to ask why no one else was asking any questions. The truth of it was that Sam had prepped so prodigiously he’d exhausted all the obvious questions the rest of us had in minutes flat, and was moving boldly on his own into terra incognita. Thanks Sam, for teaching me the value of homework, whether for a press conference or the courtly grilling of fresh bureaucrat over an elegant meal.
Tracy Dahlby, Prof. of Journalism, U. of Texas
AFTER HE LEFT THE POSITION AS THE LA Times Bureau Chief I was impressed that he continued to turn up at FCCJ lunches and, almost always, had a question; often a fairly simple and basic one because, inevitably, he was not a specialist in many of the topics covered but perhaps all the better for that.
Charles Smith, former Tokyo bureau chief, Financial Times
WHEN HIS LA TIMES CAREER CAME TO an end after a quarter century, I was proud to bring him over to Asia Times for his amakudari. His professional accomplishments and friends in high places are well known. Less well known is his after hours conviviality. I doubt even Sam could count the number of hole in the wall nomiya where he was enthusiastically welcomed. Whenever he said, “Let’s go for drinks,” I never said no and consequently never failed to learn about a new and delightful place. We’ll miss Sam.
Bradley Martin, former Newsweek Tokyo Bureau Chief
TOWARDS THE END OF MY ASSIGNMENT in Tokyo, he took me to his favorite haunt. It was a bar that seated maybe five people. There, with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he finally seemed to truly relax. It’s very sad to hear that he never had the time to complete the book he had been working on for so long. I can still picture the top shelf along the entire wall on one side of our office that was stacked high with files that he always said were for that book he would one day write. I imagine it must have felt impossible to Sam that all his years in Japan and all those rich memories of reporting on a country and people with whom he had gone through so much, could ever possibly fit into a single volume. Japan won’t be the same without him.
Leslie Helm, former LA Times reporter, now editor, Seattle Business Magazine
SAM WAS A PHENOMENAL HUMAN BEING.Henry Scott Stokes, freelance, Tokyo
I WORKED FOR SAM FROM 1990 TO 1996 at the LA Times Tokyo Bureau as a coordinator and assistant. During the years, I always admired his devotion to grab news from Japanese sources first hand. On election night, he was glued to TV reports and meticulously followed the votes coming in for each candidate. We stayed up all night in the office analyzing the results. While he spent a lot of time at work, he also knew how to enjoy his life he had a good singing voice and enjoyed singing at a Showa-era retro bar with friends.
Chiaki Kitada, LA Times bureau assistant,
IT WAS SAID OF SAM JAMESON THAT HE knew more about the workings of Japanese politics that any of the office-holders and spoke better Nihongo than some of them.
Richard Pyle, former Asia News editor, AP
“GENTLEMAN JOURNALIST” IS THE phrase that comes to mind when I think of Sam. He was a “gentle” man in demeanor but that did not prevent him from asking searching questions and being unrelenting until he got answers. He would typically raise his hand to question a speaker at an FCCJ Profes- sional Lunch, walk somewhat hesitant- ly to the microphone, disarm a speaker with an innocent smile and then deliver a question that would quickly cut the ground from beneath the feet of any dissembler. Toward the end of his life, Sam decided to join those FCCJ Regular members who were taking legal action to overturn Board actions which he saw as deeply damaging to an institution whose atmosphere and character he had helped to mold over half a century.
Anthony Rowley, Tokyo correspondent, Business Times
SAM JAMESON, GEBHARD HIELSCHER and I used to call ourselves “The Three Stooges” (San Baka Taisho in Japanese, which roughly means three big fools). This international trio of drinking buddies had one thing in common a love for izakaya where they serve good sake and yakitori, and Sam was an expert in finding such joints. I remember him talking about Japanese politics over a glass of Kokuryu from Fukui, and it was like listening to Japan’s postwar history. Sam, I will be drinking sake at one of the places where the three big fools spent an evening and think of you.
Hideko Takayama, former Newsweek reporter, Tokyo
A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, SAM wrote me saying he knew I must have been disappointed in the Korean presidential election result. I wrote back asking him why was it that at every critical moment of history, the evil side always won. He then asked me why Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-Hyun didn’t make anything of their chances. I was wondering how to make him to see that those ten years were only a fraction of our sixty year modern history. . . . Now, I’ll never finish that discussion, which I know Sam would have loved to pursue.
Jungnam Chi, former LA Times correspondent, Seoul.
SAM AND I HAD A SHARED INTEREST in Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, since we were both alumni of the school’s graduate program at the Medill School of Journalism. Sam was always a serious and meticulous journalist, but he always had time for his other passion softball. He was an enthusiastic member of the FCCJ Alleycats.
Mel Tsuji, prof. Seneca College, former CBC-TV writer/producer
AFTER THE FAMOUS OCT. 22, 1974 FCCJ luncheon for Tanaka Kakuei, I remember Sam rushing out after the luncheon to get his hands on the original Japanese text of the Bungei Shunju article which had fueled some rather rude and very direct questioning of Tanaka at the luncheon and which led to his downfall two months later. I doubt if anyone else there that day had shown such zeal; most had been very happy just to go with the condensed English language version they had before them. It epitomized not only Sam’s ability to handle Japanese (though he spoke it with a rather daunting accent) but also his emphasis on getting the facts right before writing. Sam for me, as for quite a few others I suspect, was the gold standard for reportage out of Japan.
Greg Clark, former Tokyo bureau head, The Australian
SAM WAS SIX MONTHS YOUNGER THAN me, but my senior by six years as FCCJ member, and by many more years as a journalist. We became close through Club politics, and continued as close personal friends after retiring from Club politics (see Hideko Takayama’s note above). When Sam was Club president, I was 2nd vice president in charge of personnel. Together we transformed the Club’s staff policy from post occupation flavor to a more equitable relationship. We’ll miss you, Sam!
Gebhard Hielscher, former Tokyo correspondent, Suddeutsche Zeitung