Charles S. (Chuck) Stone Jr., a prominent and pioneering American journalist who touched and shaped many lives as a big-city newspaper columnist, university professor and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, died April 6 at an assisted living facility near Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Krishna, who said he had been suffering from congestive heart failure.
Over a long and groundbreaking career at the highest levels of journalism and public debate, Mr. Stone was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, an aide to Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.) and a man so trusted by the readers of his Philadelphia Daily News column that dozens of homicide suspects insisted in surrendering to him.
Outspoken, but at ease in many worlds, Mr. Stone befriended both Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was editor of three of the best-known newspapers published in the nation’s black communities, and he was admired by his students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he was retired.
Mr. Stone, a man who stood for integration and who was committed to diversity, once told an inquisitive interviewer that his favorite color was orange. His vision of diversity, particularly in journalism, included women and all underrepresented ethnic groups.
He covered the White House for the Washington Afro-American, for which he also served as editor, worked for aid agencies in India and Egypt, and was an author of books for adults and children.
For adults, he published “Tell it Like it Is,” a compilation of his columns, “Black Political Power in America,” and a novel, “King Strut.” For children, he wrote “Squizzy the Black Squirrel,” designed to be entertaining and instructive.
He was a man of strong feelings and wry wit. In discussing his World War II assignment to teach aerial navigation to the other members of the Tuskegee Airmen, he recalled, “They always sent me up to fly with the hard-to-learn students.”
Bespectacled and bow-tied, he appeared on television talk shows and was one of the first hosts of “Black Perspectives on the News,” a PBS show.
Described on one Web site as the descendant of former slaves in Haiti, Charles Sumner Stone Jr. was born in St. Louis and raised in Hartford, Conn., where he attended the public schools. After the war, he received a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago.
In the 1950s, he worked overseas for CARE before he was recruited by the New York Age, where he was editor from 1958 to 1960.
After that, he became an official of the American Committee on Africa, and he joined the Afro-American in Washington. In 1963, he became editor-in-chief of the Chicago Defender, one of the best-known and most outspoken of the news outlets that served the black community during the civil rights movement.
Perhaps his greatest impact came in the two decades from 1972 to 1991, when he served the Philadelphia Daily News as a senior editor and columnist.
Writing for the feisty mainstream tabloid at a time of simmering racial tensions, he spoke his mind in about 4,000 columns, taking on such powerful authority figures as mayors Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode.
In a report of Mr. Stone’s death on its Web site, the Daily News described him as a legend, someone so trusted in the city that “more than 75 murder suspects surrendered to Stone rather than to law-enforcement.”
After leaving Philadelphia, he went to Chapel Hill, where he was credited with inspiring many with teaching that quickly won honors.
An obituary in the Raleigh News & Observer told of how he was known on campus for such habits as riding a bicycle to his classes, which included one on censorship, which he characterized as “dirty books and dirty pictures.”
He and his wife Louise divorced after decades of marriage. She predeceased him. Survivors include two daughters, Andrea and Krishna; a son, Charles Stone II; a grandchild; and two sisters.
A UNC faculty member told the Raleigh newspaper that Mr. Stone lived his beliefs and “accepted and welcomed all who walked through his office or classroom door — students, faculty, staff, prospective students, anyone.”