Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Connor’

Happy 100th, Charleston Daily Mail

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This week and off and on for the rest of the year, our newsroom will be celebrating 100 years of the Charleston Daily Mail.

One key aspect of the newspaper’s history, we discovered, was the many incarnations and sporadic production it experienced early on. The period agreed upon to mark the celebration was early April, 1914, when former Alaska Gov. Walter Eli Clark bought the newspaper out of auction and set it on course for 100 years of regular publication. Thank you, Governor Clark!

Clark was a unique and interesting figure — and a fitting one for early newspaper lore, as you might read in Zack Harold’s story about him. Other leaders at the Daily Mail — like publisher Lyell Clay, Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Maurice and still more like editor Charlie Connor and photographers Earl Benton and Chet Hawes and lifestyles editor Julianne Kemp — would have been an inspiration for anyone to work beside. Oh, wait! I did work with Julie for a few of her 50 years at the Daily Mail! That was, in fact, a treat.

Their influences surround us every day as we still put out a paper that we hope they’d enjoy reading.

This masthead -- filled with a who's who of Daily Mail leaders is on a framed newspaper behind my desk.

This masthead — filled with a who’s who of Daily Mail leaders is on a framed newspaper behind my desk.


This motto established by Governor Clark is still on a plaque on a pillar in the Daily Mail office

Jack Maurice's career and Pulitzer Prize are nicely framed. I couldn't angle the reflection of the overhead lights out of the picture, though.

Jack Maurice’s career and Pulitzer Prize are nicely framed. I couldn’t angle the reflection of the overhead lights out of the picture, though.

This is the Charleston Daily Mail building as it appeared many years ago. This corner of the building still looks very similar.

This is the Charleston Daily Mail building as it appeared many years ago. This corner of the building still looks very similar.


Here’s what the Charleston Daily Mail newsroom looked like in December. 1968, compared to today.


Memories of Charlie Connor, the gentleman editor

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A week ago our newsroom and community learned of the death of Charlie Connor, a former editor and a true gentleman.

A lot of great tributes to Charlie came out, including one from the Register-Herald in Beckley, where he had been publisher from 1981 to 1987. Another was an editorial in our own paper. Normally our staff editorials are unsigned, but I’ll tell you this one was written by the Daily Mail’s retiring editorial page editor Hanna Maurice, who had worked with Connor here and who turned out a heartfelt, personal tribute to Charlie. I know writing it wasn’t easy for her.

Here’s a nice description from that editorial:

He was empathetic, encouraging and thoughtful with everyone he ever met – an example of that rare breed who brought grace to every aspect of his life.

charlieI only encountered Charlie a couple of times, but that’s certainly the impression he gave me. Once I called him on the phone because I was writing a story about the 40th “birthday” of the Daily Mail’s front page mascot, Charley West. Charlie had helped create Charley in 1958. Charlie was, true to character, gracious and gave me all the time I needed.

The other time I met him at a picnic for Daily Mail retirees in 1998. Talk about time flying. It’s hard to believe 15 years have passed since that picnic and how many of the great writers and editors who attended have since died. If you’re a longtime reader you’ll recognize names like Dan Hose, Richard Grimes, Bob Kelly and Adrian Gwinn. Even longtime owner Lyell Clay was able to attend.

In my office at the paper, I found a collection of short stories (and some photos) of newspaper life from staffers who attended the picnic.

It’s a treasure trove, but mostly I’d like to share a story Charlie Connor wrote about his time at the Daily Mail:

I graduated from Marshall at mid-semester in 1948, got married the next week, and took the train from Huntington to Charleston the next week to accept a promising job at the Daily Mail. I knew very little about Charleston’s physical layout.

Arriving at the C&O Depot on a cold January day, I inquired where the Daily Mail was located. A station agent told me “on Hale Street” and I proceeded there, entered the newsroom and was greeted by Dallas “Tex” Higbee, the managing editor. Good so far.

Except, I soon learned, this wasn’t the Daily Mail but the Gazette.

Mr. Higbee was magnanimous when he learned I was from Marshall and looking for a job. “Why not work here?” he asked. “We’re short a reporter.”

I thanked him and said I’d be back if the Daily Mail’s Vint Jennings failed to hire me. Jennings, then city editor, did hire me and that was the beginning of a wonderful 33-year relationship until I moved to Beckley to become a publisher. I recall my beginning salary was $5 more than the Herald-Dispatch offered in my hometown, Huntington.

charlie2I might add that three months after I began working at the Daily Mail, a cute redhead moved in from a triumphant two-year career in New York as a budding ballerina. Her name? Julie Kemp.

I understand she has established a 50-year-plus record at the Daily Mail and has no intention of retiring. She’s a better (wo)man than I’ll ever be. I love you, Julie.

Okay, one more?

It was another cold winter day when Sam Hindman dragged his wife, eight months pregnant with Kim (now an assistant Kanawha County prosecuting attorney) into the Daily Mail newsroom after a snowy trip from Bluefield. He was looking for a larger opportunity than on the Bluefield newspaper where he worked.

I had recently become managing editor and was being very careful with my first hires. Sam, being the bright person he is, impressed me. I offered him $140 a week to start.

“But I’m already making that in Bluefield,” he said.

“But you’ll have a better chance of making a name for yourself in Charleston,” I countered.

He took the job and we all know what’s happened since. He’s the Daily Mail publisher, has a wonderful wife and home, plays a lot of golf, and generally enjoys the fruits of his labor both here and in his past years as a Thomson Newspapers executive.

$140 to start. Not bad pay, Sam. Aren’t you glad you took the job?

I know a lot of great, talented editors have occupied this office before me. I haven’t met many of them, but I’m glad I met Charlie.