NATIONAL NEWS

Former Charlotte Observer Publisher Rolfe Neill dies at age 90

Jul 14, 2023, 2:03 PM | Updated: 2:18 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Rolfe Neill, a longtime newspaperman and editor who led The Charlotte Observer as its publisher when it won a pair of Pulitzer Prizes for public service, died Friday at age 90.

Neill, a North Carolina native whose journalism career included two stops in Charlotte between leadership positions in other big-city papers, died of complications from peritoneal cancer at his Lake Norman-area home, daughter Ingrid Ebert told the Observer.

In 1975, Neill became publisher and president of the Observer and the now-defunct afternoon Charlotte News. He retired as Observer publisher at the end of 1997, the newspaper reported.

Described as a perfectionist when it came to producing a newspaper, Neill also played a significant role in helping Charlotte grow and mature into a national powerhouse through his relationships with political and business leaders in the region and state.

“He had one foot in being the publisher of the newspaper and one foot in the community, and he was a force in both,” said former Duke Power CEO Bill Grigg, a longtime friend. “You can certainly say Rolfe is one of a handful of community leaders who over the past 40 years did more than just about anybody to make Charlotte what it is today.”

The Observer won a Pulitzer in 1981 for a series of stories on “brown lung” suffered by textile workers breathing in dust and in 1988 for reporting on the financial misdeeds at the Charlotte-area PTL television ministry led by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

“I had this strong desire to influence things for the better,” Neill once said. “Some things we didn’t get done. Some things maybe we fell short in. I tried to guide and inspire and improve people. But in the end, having said my piece, I left them to do what they thought best.”

Born in Mount Airy in 1932, Neill spent the second half of his childhood in Columbus, Georgia, where he delivered the local paper. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he became editor of The Daily Tar Heel, the Observer reported.

After an Army stint that included working for Stars and Stripes and a brief time at the weekly Franklin Press newspaper in the North Carolina mountains, the Observer hired him to open the paper’s Gastonia bureau. By 1958 he was the paper’s business editor.

Next he worked at several newspapers in Florida, including The Miami Beach Daily Sun, and moved in 1965 to the New York Daily News, where he ultimately became an assistant managing editor. He then became editor of the Philadelphia Daily News until he returned to Charlotte.

Former Observer editors and reporters generated a range of descriptions about Neill’s work habits and demeanor.

Some cited his charisma, his ability to know the names of everyone working in the Observer building, and his expression of confidence in staff even when there were disagreements.

“He was one of the most personable people I’ve ever worked for,” former Observer reporter Elizabeth Leland said.

Others said it was sometimes difficult to meet his expectations.

“He was the smartest person I ever worked for, very strong in character and driven by high standards,” former Observer Editor Rich Oppel said. Still, he added, “I never met an editor who worked for Rolfe who felt that he or she measured up.”

Neill continued in civic and charitable endeavors in Charlotte after retirement, including literacy, the arts and the protection of green spaces.

Neill’s wife of 28 years, Ann Marshall Snider, died in 2016, the newspaper reported. He had several children from a previous marriage.

National News

FILE - Members of the Henderson Fire Department load Deb Billet, 66, into an ambulance before trans...

Associated Press

Things to know about heat deaths as a dangerously hot summer shapes up in the western US

PHOENIX (AP) — A dangerously hot summer is shaping up in the U.S. West, with heat suspected in dozens of recent deaths, including retirees in Oregon, a motorcyclist in Death Valley, California and a 10-year-old boy who collapsed while hiking with his family on a Phoenix trail. Heat is the top cause of weather-related fatalities […]

22 minutes ago

Associated Press

The UN condemns increasing gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti that is undermining peace

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms” the increasing gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti that is undermining peace, stability and security in the country and the region. Friday’s resolution expresses grave concern at illegal arms and ammunition flowing into Haiti and their link […]

4 hours ago

Actor Alec Baldwin reacts during his trial for involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 fatal shooting...

Associated Press

Inside the courtroom as case dismissed against Alec Baldwin in fatal shooting of cinematographer

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A nearly three-year legal saga for Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer ended Friday without a verdict but with tears of relief for the actor and a small coterie of family who had settled into a somber daily routine on wooden benches inside a windowless New Mexico […]

4 hours ago

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens to a speech during the opening of the High-L...

Associated Press

UN chief urges funds for Palestinians, saying Israel is forcing Gazans ‘to move like human pinballs’

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief appealed for funding Friday for the beleaguered U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East, accusing Israel of issuing evacuation orders that force Palestinians “to move like human pinballs across a landscape of destruction and death.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a donor’s […]

5 hours ago

Meals on Wheels employees take advantage of an assembly line to prepare bags of food for clients, F...

Associated Press

Houston community groups strain to keep feeding and cooling a city battered by repeat storms

HOUSTON (AP) — The deafening hum of a generator was a welcome noise Thursday evening at a Houston independent living center where several dozen seniors had lost power in the wake of Hurricane Beryl. Joe and Terri Hackl, who had pulled up with the backup electricity source after delivering hundreds of meals all day, estimate […]

6 hours ago

Twin sisters Jo and Joy Banner pose for a photograph in front of their business, Fee-Fo-Lay Café, ...

Associated Press

Historically Black Cancer Alley town splits over a planned grain terminal in Louisiana

WALLACE, La. (AP) — Sisters Jo and Dr. Joy Banner live just miles from where their ancestors were enslaved more than 200 years ago in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Their tidy Creole cottage cafe in the small, river-front town of Wallace lies yards away from property their great-grandparents bought more than a century […]

6 hours ago

Former Charlotte Observer Publisher Rolfe Neill dies at age 90