California Beat Hero: Herb Caen
April 3, 1916 – February 1, 1997
Herb Caen . . . Do I really need to say anything more? He was a San Francisco legend whose written words could make or break you. His unforgettable personality made him a leading icon in a city built by icons and his memory is one that can never fade away with time.
Born in Sacramento on April 3, 1916, Herbert Eugene Caen embarked into professional journalism with the Sacramento Union right out of high school in 1932. In 1936, he came to San Francisco to take a job with the San Francisco Chronicle, where he would work until his death with exception to a brief stint at the San Francisco Examiner.
On July 5, 1938, Caen published the first edition of a gossip column titled “It’s News to Me.” This column quickly became a favorite of readers and would be published six days a week for over fifty years until 1991, when he cut back to five days a week.
He was also more then just a columnist though. He was a veteran of the military, serving overseas as a Captain with the Army Air Corps during the Second World War. He also wrote several books about the city he loved, most notably being “Baghdad-by-the-Bay” in 1949 and “One Man’s San Francisco” in 1976.
In 1996 he was honored with a special Pulitzer Prize. Shortly afterwards, the city of San Francisco declared June 14th as Herb Caen Day. On February 1, 1997, Herb Caen died at the age of 80.
Herb Caen was a San Franciscan above San Franciscans. His name stands with honor alongside some of the city’s best known newspapermen: William Randolph Hearst, Charles and Michael DeYoung, and James King of William.
We at the California Beat are proud to honor, on the 93rd anniversary of his birth, Herb Caen as a California Beat Hero.