Charles Chappell; Veteran L.A. Journalist
Charles R. (Chuck) Chappell, one of the last of that colorful breed of city editor from an era when five daily newspapers competed for space on the porches and in the newsstands of Los Angeles, has died.
The veteran journalist had more recently been West Coast public relations director of Douglas Aircraft Co. (later McDonnell Douglas) after his tenure at the Los Angeles Daily News ended with the paper’s demise in 1954. He retired from Douglas in 1977 and was 81 when he died.
Ray Duncan, who had been co-editor with Chappell of their high school newspaper in Huntington Park, said his old friend had died of congestive heart failure at Saddleback Community Hospital in Laguna Hills on Wednesday
Chappell came to the Daily News after serving on Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s staff in the Pacific during World War II. He had previously worked for the Bakersfield Californian after graduating from Stanford University.
A proper, reserved, sometimes distant gentleman, he was an odd hire at the Daily News, which had a reputation as the most liberal, pro-union leftist-leaning of the metropolitan newspapers of wartime and postwar Los Angeles.
The city editors who ran the old Daily News, Examiner, Mirror, Herald Express and Los Angeles Times were an imaginative bunch who treated the competition with disdain and provided their readers with equal doses of information, cynicism and mirth.
Ralph Richardson at the Examiner and Agness Underwood at the Herald fought bitterly for news breaks on the Black Dahlia murder or Errol Flynn’s and Charlie Chaplin’s paternity suits and other sensational stories of the day.
William F. Thomas at the Mirror established an international “hot line” in which personalities ranging from Popes to notable paupers to princes would be interviewed by phone each day.
Henry (Hank) Osborne at The Times ran the most sedate of the five city rooms, dealing generally with the significant political and economic developments of the time, but he was also known for producing yarns about political intrigue (usually involving Democrats) and for chasing an occasional police siren.
Only Thomas, who came to The Times in 1962 when the Mirror was closed and retired as the paper’s editor in 1989, is still alive.
Chappell’s wartime service was at odds with his profession. He served as MacArthur’s press censor, deleting news items that could have been of value to the enemy.
And he remained in character on his return, refusing in a 1944 interview to answer any questions about his military duties.
Chappell leaves no survivors.
Services are pending.