David Secrest says his father died Saturday in Chapel Hill after complications from throat cancer surgery.
"Mac" Secrest also served as a federal mediator in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was Editor and owner of the Cheraw Chronicle in Chesterfield County, S.C.
He was the owner and publisher of The Cheraw Chronicle, a weekly in northeastern South Carolina. He criticized segregationists who followed a strategy of massive resistance after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Secrest pressed his views despite threats and attacks on his home.
"He was a true Southern gentleman who stood up for integration. He was very strong on humanitarian issues," said Richard Cole, the former dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. "He also was a very warmhearted and giving person who was loved and respected by his students."
Hank Klibanoff, a former Philadelphia Inquirer editor who cowrote The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation, said Secrest was "a rarity whose courageous editorial voice in the 1950s and 1960s revealed there were cracks in the bulwark of the segregationist South where rational and progressive thinking could survive."
After selling the Chronicle, Secrest taught journalism at Chapel Hill for five years
Andrew McDowd Secrest Jr. was born Sept. 15, 1923, in Monroe, N.C. He graduated from Duke University in 1944 and earned a Ph.D. in history there in 1972. During World War II, he served as an officer aboard the USS Hammann, a destroyer escort.
After the war, Secrest worked for newspapers in New York state and in North Carolina, including The Laurinburg Exchange and The Charlotte News.
Secrest bought the Cheraw newspaper in 1953. He edited and published the newspaper in the 1950s and 1960s, at the apex of civil rights battles in the South. Secrest crusaded against segregation despite harassment that included threats to him and his family, buckshot through the windows of his home and menacing signs placed in his yard late at night. He received a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard in 1960 for his courageous journalistic work.
Secrest also served as the co-chair of the Community Relations Service during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, focusing on racial disputes in the U.S. and especially the South. The CRS helped bring about the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and 1966.