Clendinen retired in 1985, 50 years after joining the Tampa Tribune as a courthouse reporter. During that time he worked his way to editorial page editor, from which he campaigned vigorously for reforms that reshaped his city and his state. These included open government, election reforms, a code of ethics for elected officials, court reforms, merit retention for judges and legislative reappointment.
ClendinenÌs editorials consistently won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Headliners Club and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. He was a former president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and was founder and first president of the Florida Society of Editors.
Jim Clendinen died January 18, 1991, but his contributions will be long felt. Former Florida Governor Reubin Askew called him “one of the most talented editors and editorial writers in the nation.”