City Councilman and journalist Jim Compton dies at 72

by: Casey McNerthney, KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

Jim Compton, a former Seattle City Councilman and reporter, died Tuesday. He was 72.

The specific cause of death was not clear, though Compton’s death was confirmed by the King County Medical Examiner, who is expected to release the cause of death Wednesday afternoon.

Compton, who worked at NBC News, became a household name in Seattle in part because of his program, “The Compton Report,” which aired Sunday nights on KING-TV. He worked at the station from 1984 until 1997.

During Compton’s time at NBC, he worked at bureaus in Cairo and London. A graduate of Reed College in Portland, Ore., Compton also earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and was a Fulbright Scholar.

His local name recognition helped Compton get elected to the Seattle City Council in 1999. He made news in 2003 when he and two other City Council members -- Heidi Wills and Judy Nicastro – received nearly $40,000 in contributions from associates of Frank Colacurcio, the notorious strip club owner who wanted to expand the parking lot of his Lake City strip club.

Willis and Nicastro were defeated after what reporters dubbed "Strippergate," but Compton was re-elected to the council in 2003. He resigned in 2006 to focus on other interests.

Compton's former station said he is survived by his wife, Carol.

Council member Nick Licata gave the following statement Tuesday:

“Jim and I shared a term of service, an interest in writing and a love of literature.  As a journalist and councilmember, Jim worked tirelessly to inform the public, educate the electorate and tell the stories that had meaning to Seattleites.

“Beginning with his election in 1999, Jim advocated for open and transparent government, police accountability and a municipally-owned wireless system.  I was proud to serve with him as fellow members of the Utilities & Technology, Energy & Environmental Policy, and Government Affairs & Labor committees. During the years we worked together, I found Jim’s approach to governing to be thoughtful yet still bold. He was easy to work with but stood up for his beliefs.

“Before being elected to the Council, we all knew Jim for his career in journalism, working first for NBC and ultimately as producer and host of the top-rated weekly news program 'The Compton Report.' Like so many in Seattle, I relied on 'The Compton Report' for an in depth analysis of local issues.

“Jim served with conviction and enthusiasm.  His death leaves an undeniable void for us all, and his inquisitive spirit will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

Council member Jean Godden gave the following statement Tuesday:

“Today, the City lost one of its most thoughtful citizens and big thinkers with the passing of Jim Compton.

“I first knew Jim as a fellow journalist. He was working as producer of 'The Compton Report' for KING-TV, and I was a columnist for The Seattle Times. Over the years, we often met professionally, covering the same story.   As a city columnist, I covered him during his first four years on the Seattle City Council. Later I joined him as a fellow councilmember. During the two-plus years we served together, Jim was more than generous with advice, serving both as a friend and mentor. He often extended a helping hand on issues of importance to us both. I remember his zeal for historic preservation and his recognition of Seattle’s role in maritime history.

“It was a sad day when I learned that he would be leaving the council, but I respected his enthusiasm for returning to his roots as a journalist. I know that Jim’s post-City Hall life was rich, and he often lobbied the Council for issues he cared deeply about.  His work as a journalist, author and legislator has improved our region and City. He will be deeply missed.”

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.