In memoriam: a tribute to Dave Gillespie.
Nowhere is his presence felt more than in Charlotte, the city he adopted in 1961 and served so well as editor of these opinion pages. Former Observer associate editor Jack Claiborne recognized Mr. Gillespie's contributions in his 1986 history of the newspaper. Though Mr. Gillespie's name never appeared on the Observer's masthead, Mr. Claiborne wrote that he contributed greatly to its "character and moral force ... "If there was an unsung hero in the Observer's struggle to define the searing social and political issues of the 1960s, it was Gillespie."
During a tumultuous decade, Dave Gillespie wrote powerful editorials about desegregating Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, businesses, and public accommodations. His work helped persuade the state to elevate Charlotte College into a campus of the University of North Carolina system, convince the General Assembly to give Mecklenburg County a local sales tax to support services and boost downtown redevelopment.
Mr. Gillespie was a Gaston County native. By age 18 he was sports editor of the Gastonia Gazette. He became an infantry officer in World War II, earning a Silver Star for valor at Remagen Bridge as well as the Purple Heart.
Ferrel Guillory, a co-worker and now a journalism professor at UNC Chapel Hill, recalls Mr. Gillespie's wry humor and graceful writing. "He really loved North Carolina and really believed an editorial page ought to be a force for progress and illuminating issues," Prof. Guillory notes.
Though Mr. Gillespie retired in 1986, he continued to write editorials regularly for the N&O. He won numerous prizes for excellence in editorial writing from the N.C. Press Association, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was inducted into the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame in 1989. North Carolina is better off today for Dave Gillespie's passion for progress--and his determination to speak his mind.
Excerpted from the Charlotte Observer, March 99, 2006
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