Newspaper publisher William Edwin ‘‘Ned’’ Chilton III (November 26, 1921-February 7, 1987) was born in Kingston, New York, of an old Charleston family. A World War II veteran and a graduate of Yale, he became publisher of West Virginia’s largest newspaper in 1961. The Charleston Gazette had been in his family since 1907, and in Ned Chilton’s hands it became a major force for reform. A liberal Democrat, Chilton served four terms in the state House of Delegates in the 1950s but abandoned elective politics when he took over operation of the Gazette. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1960 and 1964.
Almost immediately, Chilton began to use his paper to crusade for change. He opposed racial segregation, censorship, and the death penalty. Chilton came down hard on drunken drivers, pushing for tougher laws, and he held public officials to high standards. His most vocal outrage was aimed at Governor Arch Moore, his contemporary. For decades, Chilton tried to convince readers that Moore, a popular Republican in a heavily Democratic era, was unsuitable to hold office.
Colleagues in publishing were not spared, as Chilton chastised what he called ‘‘the insipid press.’’ During a 1983 speech to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, he said most papers published mere ‘‘spurts of indignation,’’ then went on to something else. ‘‘The hallmark of crusading journalism is sustained outrage,’’ Chilton told the publishers.
Chilton’s editorial page was credited with ending the commissioner of accounts system of probate, which the Gazette castigated as the ‘‘ghoul system’’ for allowing politically connected lawyers to be appointed as commissioners and claim a percentage of every dead person’s estate that passed before them. Chilton demanded that government operate publicly, and filed a suit forcing the State Bar and the West Virginia Board of Medicine to reveal complaints against lawyers and doctors. Another Chilton campaign resulted in an end to secret government meetings.
Ned Chilton died unexpectedly while in Washington to compete in a national squash match.
This Article was written by Kay Michael
Last Revised on October 04, 2012