THE ICON: Ashton Phelps Jr.
THE LEGACY: Within a decade of succeeding his father as The Times-Picayune’s publisher in 1979, Ashton Phelps Jr. had merged the morning and afternoon newspapers and steered the combined product into an era of daily color illustrations. But the defining moment of his 33 years at the helm of New Orleans’ biggest newspaper came on Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit. The next day, he ordered the evacuation of the paper’s headquarters, joining the exodus in a procession of blue delivery trucks as water lapped at the headlights. In Baton Rouge, the newspaper’s home for the next six weeks, Phelps refused the offer of a private office, opting to join colleagues at long tables in a former shopping mall. When the newspaper’s Katrina coverage was rewarded with prizes — including a Pulitzer for public service — Phelps said credit belonged to the staff, saying the secret is “to build a good team, to have a dedicated team that will put the paper first in a time of crisis.”
THE ARTIST: Seagan Swanson
THE INSPIRATION: “He was effective in getting things done because he learned to balance the need to accomplish the work with a genuine concern for the people. The result is that people wanted to work to please him. … I was continually impressed with how well he was able to set aside his self-interest for the long-term good of the organization and its people.” — Nancye Combs, a newspaper consultant who worked with The Times-Picayune, in an interview