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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
Hon. Josephus Daniels


The story of the career of Josephus Daniels is the story of success achieved by a man of real character who has dared to believe and dared to do as he believed.

Mr. Daniels was born in Washington, N. C., May 18, 1862, the son of Josephus and Mary (Cleves) Daniels, of Scottish descent. In his early days the family moved to Wilson, N. C., where he received an academic education in the Wilson Collegiate Institute. He showed an early aptitude for newspaper work and while a boy, in Wilson, started an amateur newspaper, The Cornucopia. Even then he talked of the day when he should be proprietor of a paper which would be a real force in the State. He became an editor of the local weekly newspaper, The Wilson Advance, when he was eighteen years old, and soon afterward its editor and owner. In 1885, he was appointed editor of the Raleigh State Chronicle, which he afterward purchased and made the chief competitor of the News and Observer, then the predominant newspaper at the State capital. After a brief experience in public office, which proved distasteful to him, as Chief Clerk of the Department of the Interior in the second administration of President Cleveland, 1893-1894, he returned to Raleigh, purchased the News and Observer, consolidating with it his own papers, and has since been its editor. Under his able and fearless direction the News and Observer has grown to double the circulation of any other paper in the State and is recognized as one of the most influential publications in the South. It occupies its own handsome building (twice destroyed by fire, and twice rebuilt), and here Mr. Daniels also publishes two weekly papers, the weekly News and Observer and the Farmer and Mechanic, a monthly section in magazine form, the North Carolina Literary and Historical Review, and the North Carolina Year Book. The secret of Mr. Daniels’ success as an editor is in the man himself. He has a genius for work and is fearless and determined in his support of great issues. Money means nothing to him, he does not smoke nor drink, and his whole life has been a moral force behind his papers: he is always to be found on the moral side of any controversy. Naturally, he was called upon to take part in many bitter personal fights: but his fair, sportsmanlike treatment even of his bitterest adversaries and his old-fashioned democratic simplicity continue to add to the wide circle of his friends and well-wishers.

A notable instance of his determination when he felt that he was in the right was his controversy with Federal Judge T. R. Purnell. He had sharply criticised the judge in his paper for acts in connection with the receivership of the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad, property of the State, accusing him of being in league with men who had formed a conspiracy to get hold of the railroad as receivers and bankrupt it. Judge Purnell held the editor in contempt of court and imposed a fine of $2,000. Mr. Daniels, in open court, declared he would rot in jail before he would pay a cent.

The judge did not dare put Mr. Daniels in jail, but he had marshals confine him in a hotel room and watch him day and night. Here he was held for several days, dating his editorials from "Cell No. 365." An appeal was taken to the Circuit Court, and Judge Peter C. Pritchard promptly found Mr. Daniels not guilty and remitted the fine. As it was learned afterward, Mr. Daniels’ many friends in the State were so thoroughly aroused that they had determined to use forcible resistance if any attempt were actually made to put the editor in jail.

Mr. Daniels was admitted to the bar in 1885, but never practised. He was State Printer for North Carolina, 1887-1893, and for several terms President of the North Carolina Editorial Association. He takes a deep interest in educational affairs and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina.

Mr. Daniels never sought, and with the exception of the short sojourn in Washington, already mentioned, never held public office until his appointment as Secretary of the Navy by President Wilson, March 5, 1913; but he had always given freely of his time and influence to advance other men ‘s political fortunes. For sixteen years he was the North Carolina member of the Democratic National Committee, receiving unanimous election. He was twice delegate to Democratic National Conventions. In the campaign of 1908 he was Chairman of the Literary Bureau: in that of 1912 he was Chairman of the Press Committee of the Baltimore convention and Chairman of the Publicity Committee, with headquarters in New York City. In the Parker campaign of 1904, he organized the "editors’ pilgrimage" to Esopus and the "dollar dinner" to William Jennings Bryan. Personally and in his newspapers, he was one of the first and most enthusiastic supporters of Woodrow Wilson as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. He was one of the leaders in bringing about his nomination and afterward served on President Wilson’s personal campaign committee.

As Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Daniels’ term has been marked by his keen interest in the enlisted men of the service. A notable outgrowth of this was the introduction, January, 1914, of a co-ordinate system of education, academic and technical, on board all ships and at all shore stations, whereby all enlisted men are enabled to learn a trade and to improve themselves in other branches of education. He also abolished the use of liquor in the officers’ mess. Another order that called forth much comment was that requiring every officer before receiving promotion to a higher grade to have had adequate service in the grade to which he was to be promoted. Among the problems that have confronted the department during Mr. Daniels’ administration are the despatch of the fleet to Vera Cruz and the capture of that city in the Mexican crisis of 1914; the uprising in Hayti in 1915, and again in 1916, when the the United States Government was called to establish a virtual control of the Government of that island; the issues growing out of the great European War, including the appointment of the Naval Advisory Board of scientists and inventors, September, 1915; and the consideration of various plans for increasing the size and efficiency of the Navy in connection with the awakened demand for preparedness throughout the country. His policies have been bitterly criticised at times, but he has maintained a dignifled silence in not replying to his critics, and in allowing his work in the Department to speak for itself.

Mr. Daniels married, May 2, 1888, Addie Worth Bagley, of Raleigh, N. C., daughter of Major W. H. Bagley. Her father, Major Bagley, served in the Confederate Army, was a State senator, and for many years Clerk of the Supreme Court; her grandfather, Jonathan Worth, was State Treasurer and Governor of North Carolina. Her brother, Ensign Worth Bagley, was the first man and the only naval officer killed in the Spanish-American War. Mrs. Daniels is an active member of many patriotic and philanthropic organizations, an ideal home-maker and help-mate. They are never happier than when at home in Raleigh with their four sons. Mr. Daniels is one of the kindliest and most genial of men, a true friend and neighbour, and is personally loved throughout his native State and by his strong character has won a host of admirers in every part of the country.


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