SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Mason Walsh, former publisher of The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette, died Saturday due to complications from pneumonia. He was 86.

Walsh was publisher of the two newspapers from 1978 until his retirement in 1980. He began work in 1966 at the papers' corporate parent, Phoenix Newspapers Inc., as general manager and became assistant publisher in 1975.

John Oppedahal, publisher and CEO of The Republic, called Walsh ``a great force for professionalism is his work and for public good in the cities where he worked.''

Walsh began his newspaper career at age 11 delivering papers for the Dallas Times-Herald. He worked for the Dallas Journal as a reporter for a year before entering Southern Methodist University, where he earned a political science degree in 1934.

He was a reporter, city editor and news editor for the Dallas Dispatch-Journal from 1935-42 and served as editor of the Austin Times-Herald in 1942.

During the Depression, Walsh also played violin, cello and viola in movie and vaudeville theaters, on radio, with dance bands and with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Following a stint in the public relations and personnel departments with North American Aviation in Dallas, Walsh resumed his journalism career in 1945 as city editor of the Dallas Times-Herald. He served as managing editor there from 1952-60.

From 1960-66, Walsh was managing editor of the Phoenix Gazette, an afternoon newspaper that shut down in 1997.

Walsh was national president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association in 1963.

Walsh is survived by his wife of 51 years, Anne; sons Tim and Kevin, chief of bureau of the AP in Miami; a daughter, Peggy Walsh, former chief of bureau of the AP in San Francisco; and two grandchildren.