Farewell George Palmer, the greatest of SA’s financial editors

By Alec Hogg

My career began too late to have met legendary editor George Palmer who passed away on New Year’s Day in Palm Springs, California – just short of his 93rd birthday. But from what I was told by all those who knew him, Palmer was comfortably the most respected person to have edited South Africa’s premier financial magazine. He moved from merchant banking in 1959 to become the first deputy editor of the Financial Mail, taking over the top job two years later and running the magazine until the late 1970s.

Veteran American broadcaster and writer Barry Wood, who worked in Johannesburg under Palmer during the tumultuous 1970s, says George was struck down playing tennis “by pneumonia he didn’t know he had.” Palmer’s widow Hazel Shore says her beloved spent his final 11 days in the ICU, “heavily sedated throughout so no last words…simply holding hands and memories.”

Palmer leaves many admirers and an enviable legacy. Despite having been described by Apartheid era prime minister John Vorster as an “enemy of the state”, he taught an entire generation of financial journalists to leave their political affiliations at home and focus instead on giving “impartial and objective comment on South African business life.”

I like that. Zimbabwe’s example proves the point: without a healthy business sector creating jobs and paying taxes, for all the pomp and self-aggrandisement, politics doesn’t actually matter.