- Created on Wednesday, 27 June 2012
- Written by Mark Thompson
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The eldest grandson of the late William Randolph Hearst, who established a multi-media family empire that he initiated as a newspaper publishing legend, also was the great grandson of businessman and United States Senator George Hearst.
The Korean War helicopter pilot and World War II veteran later worked for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, published the Los Angeles Examiner, worked with other several newspapers and served as vice president of Hearst Corp. Hearst Corporation publishes 15 daily U.S. newspapers, plus magazines including Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan and Esquire. It operates 29 television and two radio stations.
“Everybody needs a regular job if you are going to do this,” Hearst said during a mid-spring 2011 interview at the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Derby in Paso Robles. At that event, one of his horses, 2005 mare, My Lil Lanta Lena, won a Classic/Challenge Open title with Hearst’s longtime cutting trainer, Bonnie Johnson.
That victory pushed Hearst’s career earnings as a cutting owner across the $500,000 mark. He and his wife, Susan Hearst, bred cutters who combined to earn well over $1 million. George Hearst earned about $75,000 as a cutting horse rider.
“It [cutting] is not a business. It’s never been a business,” Hearst said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s good horses, and it’s good people. What more could you want?”
Asked if he was nervous at all while watching two of his horses compete in finals at the 2011 PCCHA Derby, Hearst just laughed and then said, “The last time I got nervous was when I was in Korea and people were shooting at me.” He recalled spending “nine years, five months and 29 days” flying helicopters for his country. “This [watching PCCHA cutting events] is just horses.”
Hearst’s last competitive ride on a cutting horse was a memorable one. He marked a 216 in his hometown’s Paso Robles Event Center during late fall of 2009 any-age horse event at the PCCHA Futurity. At age 82, Hearst drew a huge crowd response while competing aboard his signature stallion, a then 12-year-old Mylanta Lena. He earned $105,812 and has sired cutting earners of more than $356,000.
“It was a good ride,” Hearst recalled during the 2011 interview. “He’s a great horse to ride. He’s easy for me to stay on. He’s a sweeping mover and there’s not a lot of jumping around.”
In March of 2011, Hearst did not compete, but said he participated in a riding party including 120 friends. “We’ve been roping and playing all kinds of games.”
Mike Rawitster, a fellow Paso Robles resident and cutting horse owner and rider, met Hearst soon after purchasing land there about 21 years ago. They met after Rawitser accidentally drove off a cattle trail located on his new property. He got his truck stuck and called a friend, the only person he knew in the area, for some help.
“She called George Hearst,” Rawitser said. “He came out in his Jeep with his winch and pulled me out. So, that’s how I met George.”
Rawitser, also interviewed during spring of 2011, said Hearst often introduced himself simply as “George.” The two became friends and eventually teamed up to put wheels in motion leading to the initiation of the former Wine Country Futurity, and the present PCCHA Futurity and Derby cuttings that place in Paso Robles.
“He’s just a low-key kind of person,” Rawitser said. “It’s kind of hard for him to fly under the radar, but that’s how he likes it. He never asks for anything. He does so many things for people that no one ever finds out because he’s not going to tell them. He’s just an incredible guy. He’s in a league of his own.”
It’s well known Hearst did much to aid the California Mid-State Fairgrounds and Paso Robles Event Center that hosts the annual PCCHA Futurity and Derby cuttings. Last spring, Hearst said he’d probably be remembered among cutters for two things.
“We [Hearst and other donors] built the big arena and the livestock pavilion in back, but my legacy is the women’s bathrooms,” he said. “Some ladies that I know said they had terrible bathrooms here, so we built those. And then we did the decomposed granite [landscaping]. So my legacy is bathrooms and dirt.”
Vivian Robertson, Paso Robles Event Center CEO for several years, said Hearst was “largely responsible” for horse and livestock events running better there. Many improvements were made with money he provided from his own pocket, she said.
“We would not be where are without him,” Robertson said.
George Randolph Hearst, Jr., was born July 13, 1927, to George R. Hearst, Sr., the eldest son of William Randolph Hearst, and the former Blanche Wilbur. His father George Hearst Sr. preceded him as vice president of Hearst Corp.
Hearst enlisted in the U.S. Naval Corps and served during World War II. He later served in the U.S. Army as a combat helicopter pilot during the Korean War.
Survivors include his wife Susan; a twin sister Phoebe Hearst Cooke; Susan’s daughter and George’s stepdaughter, Jessica Gonsalves; three children, George, Stephen, and Erin Hearst Knudsen; and his cousin, Patricia Hearst Shaw. His oldest child, Mary “Bunny” Hearst Ives, preceded him in death.