Charles K. Connor Jr., the former executive editor of the Charleston Daily Mail and retired publisher of The Register-Herald in Beckley, died Sunday in Treasure Island, Florida, his family confirmed. He was 89.Connor was among a group of staffers who, in 1958, came up with Charley West, the small cartoon character who dispenses a snippet of wisdom every day on the front page of the Daily Mail.A lifelong newspaperman, Connor's interest in news dated back to his childhood in Huntington, where, at age 10, he and a group of friends published a neighborhood newspaper that included coverage of sick cats and the comings and goings of community residents.After editing his high school newspaper, Connor studied journalism at Marshall University, where he put his education on hold in 1942 to enlist in the Army during World War II, where he served in North Africa. He left the Army in 1946 as a staff sergeant, returned to Marshall, and graduated cum laude in 1948.
One week after graduation, he married Nancy McGrew, who became his wife of 65 years. The following week Connor began what would turn out to be a 33-year career with the Charleston Daily Mail. At the Daily Mail, Connor worked as a reporter and a columnist before becoming the newspaper's managing editor and executive editor.During his time at the Daily Mail, Connor also served as the West Virginia reporter for Time Magazine.In 1981, Connor was named president and publisher of Beckley Newspapers -- a post he held until retiring in 1987. In Beckley, Connor supervised The Register-Herald's move into a new headquarters, and converted the lobby of the building into a public art gallery.
As publisher of The Register-Herald, Connor led a five-year campaign to control black flies in Southern West Virginia, after dozens of mothers brought their children, eyes swollen shut from fly bites, into the newspaper offices.The newspaper proposed spraying Bti, a bacteria that controls black flies and mosquitoes but is harmless to humans, in the New, Bluestone and Greenbrier Rivers. The spraying is now done regularly.After retiring from newspapers, Connor served as executive director of the Beckley Area Foundation. During the 1980s, Connor also served as a member of the Marshall University Board of Advisors and the West Virginia Board of Regents, the former governing board for the state's higher education system.In 1990, Connor was named the recipient of the Spirit of Beckley Award for his enthusiastic support of cultural and economic development in the Beckley area.In May, The Register-Herald reported that Connor had recently been experiencing health problems that had led to breaks in both his shoulders and in one arm.