Lanning Macfarland Jr., 94, distinguished chairman of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Law Bulletin Media, died Wednesday at his home in Vero Beach, Fla.
For more than 50 years Macfarland led the oldest daily courts newspaper in the country and the oldest family-owned business (140 years) in Chicago, taking it from near bankruptcy to recognized preeminence in the legal publishing field.
Born in Evanston to Lanning Macfarland and Elizabeth Stuckslager, he attended New Trier High School. In 1943 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Quartermaster Corp in Hawaii until his discharge in 1946.
After leaving the Army, he attended Northwestern University earning a BA degree and MBA in 1949 and 1950 respectively. While at Northwestern he met his future wife, Roberta Seager, a Stanford University transfer student, and they married in 1947.
In 1953, at the age of 28, Macfarland joined the family business and served as president, chief executive, and chairman until his retirement in 2005. Macfarland represented the third generation of his family to guide the company. His two sons, Lanning III and Brewster, carry on the tradition today as CEO and COO.
Through the decades, the Macfarland family expanded the company’s products and services and were among the first publishers to recognize the trend to computerized news and information. Many of the Law Bulletin’s products were available online in the 1970s. The privately-owned company today is a major regional print and electronic information company in the legal field.
Macfarland devoted years of service to newspaper publishers and editors in the state and nation. He was a director of the National Newspaper Association, a director and president of American Court and Commercial Newspapers and a director and president of Illinois Press Association. In 1996 he received the IPA’s Distinguished Service award for his determined efforts involving protection of public notice. In addition, Macfarland served as a director of the Illinois Press Foundation.
Macfarland was a member of the board of directors of Employers Mutual Casualty Co. in Des Moines, past director of Master Printers Credit Union and past director of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association.
In 2017, he was awarded The John Marshall Law School Alumni Association’s 43rd annual Freedom Award.
He loved sports and played tennis and golf into his mid-80s. For more than 30 years he enjoyed competitive curling and played in tournaments and events in the U.S., Canada and Scotland. He was a past president of the Illinois Curling Foundation.
Macfarland also served as director and president of Indian Hill Country Club in Winnetka, the University Club in Chicago, and was a member of Edgartown Golf and Yacht clubs in Mass., the Roomer Country Club and Moorings Yacht and Country Club in Fla.
In later years he divided his time between homes in Winnetka; Vero Beach, Fla.; and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.. with particular fondness for his summers at the family home on Chappaquiddick Island.
Macfarland was predeceased by his wife of 72 years, Roberta Seager Macfarland. He is survived by his three children, Elizabeth Macfarland Parker (Gary), Lanning Macfarland III (Claire), and Brewster Macfarland (Sarah), six grandchildren (Andrew Parker, Jamie Parker, Lindsey Macfarland Salisbury, Susan Macfarland Mehmeti, Mathew Macfarland, and Kelly Macfarland), and six great-grandchildren.
A private family service and interment will be held on Chappaquiddick Island at a future date.