Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Junius Parker Fishburn (30 September 1895–24 March 1954), newspaper publisher and civic leader, was born in Roanoke and was the son of Theresa Grace Parker Fishburn and Junius Blair Fishburn, then cashier and a director of the National Exchange Bank (later First National Exchange Bank). Fishburn graduated in 1914 from Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania as class president and valedictorian. He then matriculated at Princeton University, where he chaired the editorial board of the Daily Princetonian, but he left in 1917 to enlist in the navy after the United States entered World War I. Promoted to chief petty officer, Fishburn served as a censor in the New York City cable office. He entered the reserve officers' training school at the United States Naval Academy and was commissioned as an ensign in September 1918. After receiving his discharge in December, Fishburn returned to Princeton and graduated with honors and a bachelor of letters in 1919. He earned a master's degree from Columbia University in 1923 and received an honorary doctorate from Washington and Lee University in 1936.

In 1918 his father acquired the Roanoke Times and Roanoke World News, and that year June Fishburn, as he was usually known, became a vice president and director of the parent company, the Times-World Corporation. He worked for the Times until 1 June 1920, when he began eight years as editor of the afternoon World News. Fishburn became assistant treasurer in 1920 and editor in charge of the editorial department the following year. In 1923 he succeeded his father as president of Times-World and remained in that position, publishing the two papers, until shortly before his death in 1954. Under his management, the combined circulation increased from 18,000 in 1923 to 85,000 in 1954. In 1931 the company purchased WDBJ, Roanoke's first radio station.

Fishburn sat on the board of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. From 1926 to 1940 he served as vice president of the First National Exchange Bank and from 1928 to 1930 as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He chaired the executive committee of the Norfolk and Western Railway Company and sat on the boards of its subsidiaries, the Pocahontas Land Company and the Virginia Holding Corporation, and on the boards of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company and of the Old Dominion Fire Insurance Company. In 1926 Fishburn became vice president of the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce, but he soon left that office to serve until 1929 as president of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. From 1929 to 1930 he served as vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.

As one of Roanoke's most influential businessmen, Fishburn devoted much of his time to community service. In 1938 he served as president of the Roanoke Community Fund. Fishburn displayed a talent for raising money for civic projects and led efforts to expand two Roanoke hospitals. Late in life he advocated the construction of Burrell Memorial Hospital, a facility for African Americans. Fishburn also joined with his father in donating land to the city for two public parks. He advocated the state's potential to attract tourists. From 1924 to 1926 Fishburn was president of the Virginia Historic Highway Association and in 1931 served on the board of the Yorktown Sesquicentennial Association, Incorporated. From 1931 to 1934 he was a member of the State Commission on Conservation and Development. Fishburn was also appointed in 1945 to a commission to study Virginia's suffrage laws. The following year he was named to a commission studying the reorganization of state government. From 1931 to 1933 he chaired the board of governors of Nation's Business, and from 1949 to 1951 he also sat on the board of the American Red Cross.

Dedicated to education, Fishburn served from 1931 until his death as a trustee of Hollins College (later University). In 1954 and in his honor the college dedicated a new library, which retained his name until the building was replaced late in the 1990s. Fishburn also served on the board of visitors of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (later Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) and on the board of regents of Mercersburg Academy. The music library at Sweet Briar College also bears his name.

Fishburn married Katherine Rodes Nelson on 14 January 1926. They had one daughter and four sons, one of whom died as an infant and twins who died shortly after birth. As treasurer and a director of the American Iris Society, he contributed an article, "Revolution in the Iris World," to the Flower Grower in August 1939. At that time the magazine described his varieties as the largest amateur collection in the country.

In 1953 the Times-World Corporation sought a license for a Roanoke television station. Although Fishburn had retired in January 1954, he appeared before the Federal Communications Commission on 24 March. No doubt Junius Parker Fishburn's testimony contributed to the corporation's receiving the license the following year, but as he left the hearing he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in a Washington hospital later that day. He was interred in Evergreen Burial Park, in Roanoke.

Sources Consulted:
Biographies in Fishburn, Parker, Boone, and Allied Families . . . (1952), 16–17, 24, 25–26, National Cyclopędia of American Biography (1891–1984), 41:567, Virginia and the Virginia County 5 (Mar. 1951): 27–28, and William Couper, History of the Shenandoah Valley (1952), 3:23–24 (portrait facing 24); family information and family Bible provided by Robert N. Fishburn (son), Sally Fishburn Fulton Crockett (daughter), and Louise Fowlkes Kegley (niece), 2007; self-reported birth date in World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards (1917–1918), Record Group 163, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; Marriage Register, Roanoke City, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8 Feb. 1929; Raymond P. Barnes, A History of Roanoke (1968); death notice in Washington Post and Times-Herald, 25 Mar. 1954; obituaries and editorial tributes in Richmond News Leader, Roanoke Times, and Roanoke World-News, all 25 Mar. 1954, in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 25, 26 Mar. 1954, and in Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, 26 Mar. 1954.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by George A. Kegley.

How to cite this page:
George A. Kegley,"Junius Parker Fishburn (1895–1954)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2016 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Fishburn_Junius_Parker, accessed [today's date]).

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