Former St. Louis Globe-Democrat editorial page editor Martin Duggan, the creator and “provocateur” of the long-running KETC series Donnybrook, passed away May 27, 2015, after a brief illness. He died at his home with his wife of 73 years, Mae, and family members by his side. He was 93.
In 1986, Duggan approached Channel 9 about creating a news program featuring journalists discussing and debating hot topics in a no-holds-barred environment. In January 1987, Donnybrook debuted; the Emmy Award-winning series still airs weekly on the Nine Network. Duggan remained at the show’s helm as provocateur for 23 years; his last broadcast was in December 2009. It continues to be among the most-watched local series on public television in the country.
“Everyone here at Nine mourns the passing of Martin Duggan, who was truly an icon of television in St. Louis,” said Nine Network President and CEO Jack Galmiche. “Other broadcasting markets have tried to copy the success of Donnybrook, but it was Martin and his friendship with the panel members that made the show so compelling-and impossible to replicate.”
Before reaching television fame on Donnybrook, Duggan was best known as the editorial page editor at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Duggan began his 45-year career at the Globe as a summer employee, assisting the Sunday features editor. After two summers and a stint serving in the Marines during World War II, Duggan was hired on full-time as a copy editor for the news desk. Eventually, Duggan’s nose for news led him to the posts of news editor, associate managing editor, and ultimately editorial page editor, before retiring when the Globe was sold in 1984. Not long after, President Ronald Reagan appointed Duggan chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on Federal Pay, a post he held for seven consecutive years, from 1984 until 1991.
Concurrently with Donnybrook, Duggan appeared regularly on other broadcast media. For 15 years, with the late Easy Ed Macauley, he hosted Beat the Press on radio station KSIV. For a number of years he and his wife, Mae, hosted Catholic Saint Louis on station WRYT. Along with Ray Hartmann, he argued on Point/Counterpoint on KMOX radio and on Face-Off on KTVI Channel 2 in St. Louis. He was interviewed weekly on St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU). Duggan also provided frequent political commentary, particularly on election nights, on St. Louis media.
After he left the Globe-Democrat, Duggan wrote a column published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Duggan fostered his lifelong love of journalism early on. As a student at South Side Catholic High School, he served as editor of the school paper. He would later reprise that role at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, where he received a degree in sociology.
Despite his professional success, Duggan valued his family above everything. “I consider my marriage much more important than my career,” Duggan said many times.
Martin and Mae Duggan wed on May 26, 1942, shortly before Duggan joined the Marine Corps where he served as a staff sergeant recruiter and a news editor of Marine combat correspondents. The Duggans have five children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. The couple were honored as Remarkable Ageless St. Louisans by St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors, Martin in 2003 and his wife in 2004.
Duggan was a lifelong volunteer in civic organizations. His many charitable posts included vice chairman of the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club and metropolitan area chairman of the National Alliance of Businessmen, a group that supports increasing minority employment. Duggan also served as president and an active supporter of The Backstoppers, the Dismas Halfway House, the Laymen’s Retreat League and the Metropolitan Press Club of St. Louis.
Duggan was among the first persons inducted into the St. Louis Media Halls of Fame. He had been designated a distinguished alumnus of St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas, and had been awarded an honorary doctorate in arts and letters by the University of Missouri St. Louis. He joined the ranks of the Missouri Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2012.