CINCINNATI (ENQUIRER) - William J. Keating, a political, business and civic leader who rubbed elbows with everyone from presidents to the everyday people of his community, died Wednesday, according to a memo sent to workers at KMK Law and confirmed later by our media partners at the Enquirer.
He was 93.
Any part of Keating’s career would have constituted a life lived in full by itself. Taken together, they represent an extraordinary legacy in the fields of law, politics and business.
His multiple careers included serving, at different times, as The Enquirer’s chairman of the board, chief executive officer, president and publisher. He also was president of Gannett Co. Inc.’s newspaper division, where he was responsible for 85 newspapers and the production, distribution and financial operations of USA Today. Gannett is The Enquirer’s parent company.
Keating also spent four years as a U.S. congressman for the 1st District of Ohio, three years on Cincinnati City Council, and almost a combined 10 years as judge for the Cincinnati Municipal Court, and Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
He founded one of the city's powerhouse law firms.
He was in the U.S. Naval Corps during World War II and a first lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve as a Judge Advocate General.
Keating was honored as a Great Living Cincinnatian in 2001; in 2009 he was inducted into the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame.
Upon learning he would be named a Great Living Cincinnatian, Keating joked that the honor simply meant he was getting old. But in a 2000 interview with The Enquirer, he also reflected on his belief in community service.
“You look at yourself and you look at your community, and you say, ‘Something’s going to pass us by if we don’t do something.’ So you step up to the mark, and you do something,” he said.
The Keating name is ubiquitous across Cincinnati and found on everything from the prestigious downtown law firm he co-founded to swimming facilities at St. Xavier High School and the University of Cincinnati.
Despite all the accolades, he was remembered as a man who treated everybody equally, believed we all can learn from others, and that leaders have an obligation to make sure their charges have all the tools necessary to succeed.
Later in life, Keating would routinely keep family members waiting if he ran into somebody he had crossed paths with earlier in life. On a trip to New York, one of Keating’s son remembers waiting at the airport while his father first caught up with a taxicab porter, and then with a shoeshine worker whose father Keating used to know.
It was an interest in others – most notably his wife, Nancy; seven children; and grandchildren – that drove Keating.
His late son Bill Keating Jr., a partner in the firm his father founded – Keating, Muething & Klekamp PLL – said his dad lived what he preached: You can learn from everybody you meet, and family always comes first.
“About 10-15 years ago, Dad was in my office, and my secretary came in and said, ‘Your son Paul’s on the phone,’” Bill Keating Jr. said in a 2012 interview with The Enquirer. “I said I’d call him back. Dad looked at me and said, ‘No, you take that call. I always took your calls.’ ”
“What I didn’t realize until I had that interaction with him was that whenever I called him at The Enquirer, I got him. He told his assistant that ‘I don’t care if I’m in a meeting, or wherever I am, if one of my kids calls me, you go find me.’ ”