The Worlds of Jim Klobuchar
In 45 years of daily journalism, Jim Klobuchar’s commentary and reportage ranged from presidential campaigns to a trash collector’s ball. He has written from the floor of a tent in the middle of Alaska, from helicopters, from the summit ridge of the Eiger in the Alps and from the edge of a sand trap. He was invited to lunch by royalty and to a fist fight by the late Minnesota Viking football coach, Norm Van Brocklin. As an energetic builder of communities, has found a way to teach football clinics for women and to lead 500-mile bike rides. In the 1970s he organized a non-denominational church service in a hockey arena for Minnesota pro football fans who felt spiritually deprived before the noon kickoff at the adjacent Metropolitan Stadium next door. A few years later he organized the unthinkable–a weekend canoe trip for 90 teenagers in northern Minnesota. According to all accounts, all survived, including the leader.
The longtime observers of these encounters—sometimes amused and sometimes startled–were the readers of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, for whom he wrote a popular column for 30 years, and readers of the 23 books he has authored. He retired as a columnist in 1996. His columns represented the wide changes in mood and the field of action in which he’s lived and has written. As a columnist, he dealt with the humbug and the fixations of politics, with adventure and death, with the follies of life, and with the doleful end of a skier who lost her pants halfway down the run. He sifted through the wackiness of life and the small revenges we extract from life. He didn’t ignore the nobility in the lives of people both famous and obscure, those who have dealt bravely with pain and tragedy and in doing so have deepened our own lives. He has been called a minstrel, which means as a journalist-adventurer he was and is a teller of stories and a witness to his world. His journalism today includes periodic commentary and reports in the Christian Science Monitor, including his coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. For his reportage and writing, the Monitor in 2003 nominated him for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.
Jim Klobuchar is a native of Ely, Minn., and a graduate of the University of Minnesota. After army service in the early 1950s, he worked for eight years with the Associated Press before joining the Minneapolis newspapers. Apart from his career in print journalism, he has hosted several TV and radio series in the Twin Cities . He is president of Jim Klobuchar’s Adventures, a travel club, and as a mountaineer has climbed the Matterhorn in the Alps eight times and also made ascents in the Andes, Himalayas and the American West. He annually leads a popular bicycle tour through the Minnesota countryside and in the 1970s cycled alone the 1,100 miles around Lake Superior. With his daughter Amy Klobuchar, who is now a U.S. Senator-elect from Minnesota, he has biked through the land of his roots in Slovenia and from Minneapolis to the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. A veteran of cross-country skiing and winter camping in Yellowstone, he has ranged in winter from the Alaska mountains to the island of Spitzbergen near the North Pole. He is a licensed pilot and has flown in balloons and parachuted.
His readers came along vicariously, in his columns and books. His latest book, published in 2005 by Nodin Press of Minneapolis, is “Walking Briskly Toward the Sunset,” a compilation of some of his writings since his retirement from the Star Tribune. Other recent books, are “Sixty Minutes With God,” in which he imagines a free-wheeling conversation with God and explores the dilemmas of his faith; and “The Miracles of Barefoot Capitalism,” co-written with Susan Wilkes, his wife. The book tells the story of the phenomenon of microcredit around the world, a movement that has empowered millions of ambitious poor women by giving them access to small loans. Also published recently were “The Cross Under the Acacia Tree,” the story of the remarkable 48-year-mission in Africa of the Rev. David Simonson,; and “Pursued by Grace,” which tells of Jim Klobuchar’s recovery from alcoholism and his spiritual reawakening. His other books include “Over Minnesota,” a personalized view of Minnesota’s history, its place and its people. He has also written “Where the Wind Blows Bittersweet, ” a collection of his western mountain experiences and “When We Reach for the Sun,” a testament to the spiritual values he’s found in the outdoors, with photographs by Bishop Herbert Chilstrom of the Lutheran Church. He is also the author of several books on pro football, including “Tarkenton” and “True Hearts and Purple Heads,” a rollicking biography of the Vikings” early years.
In 1984 the National Society of Newspaper Columnists named him the outstanding general columnist in America for newspapers over 100,000 circulation. In 1986 he was one of the finalists in NASA’s journalist-in-space project, a venture that ultimately was cancelled because of accident involving the space shuttle Challenger. He lives in Minneapolis and in 2001 married Susan Cornell Wilkes, who manages family foundations.
His daughters are Amy Klobuchar, who was elected to the United States Senate from Minnesota in 2006 after serving two terms as chief prosecutor for Hennepin County (Minneapolis and suburbs); and Meagan McGlade of Des Moines, Iowa, an auditor-accountant with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.