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Veteran journalist, UNC professor Chuck Stone, dies

Posted April 6
Updated April 7

— Longtime journalist and educator Charles Sumner "Chuck" Stone Jr. – one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists, died Sunday at age 89.

Allegra Stone said that her father died at an assisted-living facility in Chapel Hill where he was a journalism professor teaching censorship and magazine writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 14 years starting in 1991.

After serving as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, Stone was a writer and editor at influential black publications in New York, Washington and Chicago through the early 1960s, using his writing to urge the Kennedy administration to advance the cause of civil rights. Subsequently, he served as an adviser to U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell of New York.

His reputation grew after he was hired as the first black columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, where he worked as a columnist and editor from 1972 to 1991. He was known for being outspoken on discrimination, police brutality and racism.

Stone, along with 43 others, founded the NABJ in Washington, D.C. in 1975.

Many who helped launch NABJ credited Stone as the driving force behind its founding, the association's current president, Bob Butler, said.

"Chuck chaired the first meeting and became the first president. He provided the rudder that steered NABJ at a time when being a member was not always easy. Some employers back then told members to choose between their jobs and NABJ," Butler said in a news release.

Novelist Pete Dexter, who worked alongside Stone as a columnist at the Daily News, said that despite the grave subject matter Stone tackled, he was a joy to be around in the newsroom.

"He was one of those people who makes you feel good just to bump into him when you came into the office because he was so happy where he was and doing what he did," Dexter said.

Dexter said Stone's work resonated with the Daily News' black readership in a time of racial strife in the city.

"I can't tell you how divided racially Philadelphia was when I got there. It was nothing like it is now," Dexter said.

Stone's family said dozens of suspects turned themselves into Stone before the authorities because of his efforts to hold the criminal justice system accountable. He was also credited with helping to negotiate the release of six guards at a Pennsylvania prison who were held hostage by inmates in 1981.

"I damn near had a nervous breakdown," Stone later told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I spent two days negotiating and they released the hostages after the second day. So then when people got in trouble and there were hostages … they said, 'call Chuck Stone to get us out of this.'"

Stone was born in St. Louis in 1924 and raised in Connecticut. After his time in the military, he graduated from Wesleyan University and earned a master's degree in sociology from the University of Chicago.

While at the Daily News, Stone began his career in education as a visiting lecturer at Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.

In 1982, he was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1985, he taught journalism at the University of Delaware.

Stone was Walter Spearman Professor at UNC's School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1991 until his retirement in 2005.

Over his career, Stone received six honorary doctorates and multiple honors, including the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award from The Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, the National Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award and The Freedom Forum's Al Neuharth Free Spirit Award.

In addition to Allegra Stone, Stone is survived by children Krishna Stone and Charles S. Stone III; grandchild Parade Stone and sisters Madalene Seymour and Irene Gordy.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Chuck Stone Citizen of the World fund at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism or the Mass Communication Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.

3 Comments

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  • rduwxboy Apr 7, 11:55 a.m.

    Dr. Stone always offered such wisdom on whatever he was discussing. Truly, a great American for all his service to the United States in such difficult times.

  • geoherb1 Apr 7, 10:09 a.m.

    One of my favorite memories of Chuck was listening to him give a talk on MLK Day several years ago. He avoided the usual hagiography of MLK. Instead, he told us stories about the real man he had known, warts and all.

  • LetsBeFair Apr 7, 8:57 a.m.

    People of the "Greatest Generation" are starting to leave us. Hard to see them go as I see little of their legacy left behind.