Frank Daniels Jr., iconic newspaper publisher and owner, dies at 90


Frank Arthur Daniels, Jr., a leading Raleigh citizen and one of the nation’s signature newspaper publishers who built The News & Observer of Raleigh into a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper before moving on to buy The Pilot of Southern Pines, passed away on Thursday, June 30, after a short period of declining health. He was 90.

Born Sept. 7, 1931 to Ruth Aunspaugh and Frank Arthur Daniels, Frank Jr, as he was universally known, was a life-long resident of Raleigh but one of the state’s greatest boosters. His contributions to the betterment of North Carolina stretched from the mountains to the coast, and his generosity benefited causes equally far and wide.

But first and foremost, Frank Jr. often referred to himself as a natural-born publisher. His grandfather, Josephus Daniels, was editor and publisher of The News & Observer from 1894 to 1948, followed by his father, Frank A. Daniels, Sr. who was publisher from 1948 to 1971.

For 25 years, Frank Jr. served as president and publisher of The News & Observer Publishing Co. He oversaw its sale, in 1995, to McClatchy Newspapers Inc. at what, in hindsight, was the tail end of the glory years of being a big-city newspaper owner.

Frank Jr. was a classic, unreconstructed newspaperman who called things as he saw them. He was equal parts hard nosed and soft hearted. He lived life on his terms, which filtered into his decision in 1995 to sell the family’s dynasty. 

Despite the conservative and even racist roots of The News & Observer, Daniels had the foresight to appoint Claude Sitton editor of the paper in 1971. Sitton, who served in that role until 1990, won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorial columns encouraging desegregation and progress in civil rights.

On Frank Jr.’s watch, The N&O became a “moderate-to-liberal voice on civil rights and as a government watchdog.” He defended Sitton at every turn, despite great pressure from conservative business and political forces.

Daniels was one of the owners of the North Carolina Tribune and its sister publications, including Business North Carolina magazine and The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines.  [Read more here]