Terry Sellards, former editor of The Berkeley Gazette
Terry Sellards, former editor of The Berkeley Gazette

A memorial service is planned in San Francisco for Terry Sellards, 76, former executive editor of the Berkeley Gazette and Richmond Independent and a long-time communications consultant in the Bay Area.

His memorial service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at St. Agnes Church, 1025 Masonic Ave., in San Francisco.  Mr. Sellards died of heart failure on March 5 at Kaiser Hospital San Francisco.

Born in 1937, Mr. Sellards had a varied and far-flung career in journalism, publishing, and politics.  He was associated with the Berkeley Gazette for fourteen years, was also the editor of an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, and was a founding editor of Endangered Species magazine in Australia.

Born in Oklahoma City, Mr. Sellards was nominated for appointment to West Point in 1955 by Rep. Edward H. Rees. He instead chose to attend Yale University on a scholarship, making the Dean’s List in 1956. While at Yale, he sang tenor in the famed “Whiffenpooffs,” the oldest collegiate a cappella group in the United States. He left Yale for medical reasons but later continued his studies at Emporia State and Wichita State universities in Kansas.

Upon completing his studies, Mr. Sellards’ friend Lance Gilmore, an education reporter at the Wichita Eagle newspaper, recommended him for a position at the newspaper. Mr. Sellards started as an obituary writer but quickly moved up the ranks. Later, Gilmore convinced Mr. Sellards to leave Kansas and join the team at The Berkeley Gazette. In 1967, Mr. Sellards moved to the Bay Area, where worked as a reporter, city editor and eventually the executive editor of the Berkeley Gazette in the bombastic era of People’s Park, the Free Speech Movement and anti-Vietnam War protests.  He retired from the paper in 1981.

Mr. Sellards also became editor of both The Independent and Gazette after the Gazette was merged with The Richmond Independent. It was in his role as editor that Mr. Sellards began his own mentorships, giving San Francisco public relations executive Sam Singer his start in the news business, and mentoring television and film producer Harvey L. Myman and former news reporter and attorney Robert Kroll.

In 1996, Mr. Sellards traveled to Hong Kong and became editor and consultant to Sing Tao publisher Sally Aw Sian for the English-language newspaper, The Standard, which he helped redesign along with designer Henry Steiner. At the time, The Standard was the only English-language newspaper in Hong Kong that was allowed to circulate throughout China.

During his time at The Standard, Mr. Sellards worked with Zenon Pasieczny who, upon completion of their contract in Hong Kong, encouraged Mr. Sellards to take a holiday to Australia. There he met publisher Michael Catchpole. Working out of Hobart, Tasmania, Catchpole and Pasieczny intrigued Mr. Sellards with their plan to produce a world-class magazine educating the public about the plight of at-risk species. Mr. Sellards became deeply connected to the cause and joined the team to launch Endangered Species magazine, serving as editor.

He also at one time made a foray into San Francisco politics and government as the No. 3 man at City Hall, serving as special assistant to then-Mayor Frank Jordan in the 1990s. Just previous to this appointment, he was CEO of Friends of The Golden Gate Bridge, and took over the position of chairman after controversy impeded progress to complete the 50th anniversary celebration of the iconic structure. He worked with designer Primo Angeli, producer Bill Graham and Charlotte Mailliard Schultz on all aspects of the plan, including a new, more dramatic lighting design for the bridge, which is employed to this day. Officials originally predicted a maximum of 50,000 people would attend the event, but with Mr. Sellards’ “all hands on deck” promotion strategy and by simplifying the event itself, it regained momentum. In the end, the celebration drew a crowd of over 800,000 people, causing the bridge to flatten out about 10 feet at midspan. Pictures and stories of the flattened Golden Gate made worldwide news.

Even in ill health in recent years, Mr. Sellards continued to be active in public relations, working on strategy and rebranding projects for San Francisco’s Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) with Franciscan Friar Kelly Cullen, and Door to Hope in Monterey County with Executive Director Chris Shannon. As he became homebound, Mr. Sellards found another way to give back, as a telephone volunteer in San Francisco for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mr. Sellards was preceded in death by his parents, Rusty and Florence Sellards. He is survived by his sister, Jane West-Trimm of Denver, cousin Patrick Murphy, nephews Gary and Troy West, and niece Tori Leigh West Barker.

Feel free to share your messages of condolence and/or memories of Terry Sellards in the comments.

Berkeleyside is always honored to publish, at no cost, obituaries of members of the Berkeley community. Please email text and photo(s) to editors@berkeleyside.com.

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