“Old printers never die,” said former Deseret News publisher William James (Jim) Mortimer. “They just miss their deadlines.”
That quip offers a telling glimpse of Brother Mortimer, who was inducted April 29 into the Utah Printers Hall of Fame. First, of course, his affable sense of humor, and second, his nearly lifelong involvement and participation in the Beehive State’s printing industry and his deep fingerprint on Church publications.
Brother Mortimer’s connection to the printing industry began years before he acquired a driver’s license. As a 12-year-old the lifelong Church member began working as a paperboy, delivering the Deseret News to his Cache County neighbors.
Bitten by the journalism bug, he would claim a master’s degree at Columbia University in 1957 before working as a reporter and assistant business editor at the Deseret News. Professionally, he had a knack for finding employment with companies that began with the word “Deseret” — aptly earning the nickname “Deseret Jim.”
Following his newspaper reporting tenure, Brother Mortimer was appointed sales manager for Deseret News Press and later served for 13 years as Deseret Book’s vice president and general manager.
In 1979, her returned to Deseret News Press to oversee its transition from a commercial printing firm to an internal printing organization within the Church. He would also serve as secretary for the Church’s Scriptures Publication Committee during a pivotal period of LDS scripture publication that included the new triple combination and the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible.
“Deseret Jim” returned to the Deseret News in 1985, where he served as publisher for 15 years.
A devout Church leader, Brother Mortimer has served as a bishop, stake president, regional representative and a patriarch.
The Utah Printers Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Crandall Historical Printing Museum and the Printing Industries of Utah. The hall’s maiden class of 2009 included President Thomas S. Monson.
Other inductees in the class of 2010 included James M. (Jim) Cornwell, who published Utah’s “Green Sheet” newspapers for several decades; printing industry innovator Blain Hudson; Mormon Pioneer printer Joseph E. Johnson, who printed the first Utah newspaper outside Salt Lake City; printer and women’s business leader Jackie Nicholes; Utah printing community leader Ezra Warner; and Lorin F. Wheelwright, the first president of the Printing Industries of Utah.