By Andrea Weigl
Raleigh News & Observer
Charles Sumner “Chuck” Stone Jr., a pioneering black journalist and an influential professor, died Sunday at 89.
Stone was remembered by his colleagues as a gifted teacher who shared insights with students based on his extensive career as a journalist, government official and civil rights activist. During his 14-year career at the University of North Carolina, Stone became known around campus for his stylish attire, his morning commute on a bicycle and his popular class on censorship that he called “dirty books and dirty pictures,” one that always had a waiting list.
“There was just one Chuck Stone. There’s no doubt about that,” said Richard Cole, a former dean of the UNC journalism school who hired Stone. “In the classroom, he was inspiring. He brought students a side of culture that they didn’t know about.”
Stone was born July 21, 1924 in St. Louis, Mo., and raised in Hartford, Conn. During World War II, he trained as a navigator at the segregated U.S. Air Corps flight school in Tuskegee, Ala. Stone later graduated from Wesleyan College in 1948 and received a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1951.
Stone worked as a reporter and editor at several influential black newspapers at the height of the civil rights era, including the New York Age and the Chicago Defender. From 1960 to 1963, Stone was editor and White House correspondent for the Washington Afro-American. During that period, he met Philip Meyer, now an emeritus professor at UNC but then a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers.
Three decades later, Meyer recruited Stone to UNC to teach journalism.
Stone’s skill for diplomacy helped him as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, a sibling paper to the Akron Beacon Journal when both were part of the now-defunct Knight Ridder chain. In 1972, the Daily News hired Stone as its first black columnist and he reported extensively about police brutality and the criminal justice system. During this time, more than 75 criminal suspects asked Stone to escort them into police custody to avoid becoming victims of police brutality.
In 1981, Stone was asked to help negotiate a deal between law enforcement officials and six prisoners who had taken 38 inmates and employees hostage at a Pennsylvania state prison.
Four years later, Stone began teaching journalism at the University of Delaware, and then came to UNC in 1991 where he taught for 14 years.
Based on his journalism and teaching career, Stone received six honorary doctorate degrees and numerous honors, including UNC’s Thomas Jefferson Award, the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Free Spirit Award from the Freedom Forum and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. Stone had helped found NABJ in 1975 and served as its first president.
Beyond teaching and writing newspaper columns, Stone also wrote a number of books. Those included Black Political Power in America, a college textbook in 1968, and a novel called King Strut in 1970.