The Charleston Gazette
The history of The Charleston Gazette begins in April of 1873, when Charles B. Webb began publication of the Kanawha Chronicle in Charleston. The paper changed hands and names several times until it became The Charleston Gazette in 1907.
The Chilton family acquired a financial interest in the paper around this time. W.E. Chilton, who began a six-year term as U.S. senator in 1911, became publisher in 1917, after his term as senator was over.
W.E. Chilton Jr., son of the senator, became president of The Daily Gazette Company in 1922, and later served as managing editor and publisher. Robert L. Smith Sr., who joined the Gazette as an errand boy at age 10, was business manager.
After Chilton’s death in 1950, Smith was made publisher. He served as publisher until his death in 1961. On Jan. 1, 1958, the Gazette entered into a joint operating agreement with the Charleston Daily Mail to merge their business and production operations. The editorial staff of both papers remained separate.
In 1960, the Gazette moved its offices to the Daily Mail building on Virginia Street. W.E. “Ned” Chilton III was named publisher in 1961.
After Chilton’s death in 1987, Robert L. Smith Jr. was named publisher and president. After he retired due to illness in 1992, Craig Selby was named publisher. Elizabeth E. Chilton was named president, later becoming publisher as well.
In 2004, the Charleston Daily Mail owner sold the newspaper to the Gazette. This acquisition and decisions stemming from it would lead to legal issues and debt.
In June 2015, Ned Chilton’s daughter, Susan Chilton Shumate, was named publisher — the fourth generation of the Chilton family to hold the position. Norman W. Shumate III was chief financial officer. In July, the company announced the merger of the Gazette and Daily Mail into one newspaper, the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
On April 10, 2017, Gazette-Mail reporter Eric Eyre won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his coverage of the opioid crisis in West Virginia.
On March 8, 2018, the Gazette-Mail was acquired by HD Media, owner of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch and five weekly newspapers in Southern West Virginia. Later that month, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the $11.5 million sale to HD Media.
The Charleston Daily Mail
The period from the 1890s to early 1900s saw several iterations of Charleston newspapers with the name “Mail.” But the true founder of the Charleston Daily Mail is considered to be Alaskan Governor Walter Eli Clark.
Clark purchased the paper at auction in 1914, gave it stability and established its identity as an independent conservative newspaper.
Clark was born in Jan. 7, 1869, in Ashford, Connecticut, the son of a farmer. He worked as a schoolteacher before becoming a newspaperman. He worked his way up to become Washington correspondent for the New York Commercial Advertiser, then for the New York Sun in 1897.
In 1900, he took a leave of absence from the newspaper to travel to Alaska to prospect for gold. Failing to strike it rich, he returned to Washington in 1901. In 1909, President William Howard Taft appointed him as the first territorial governor of Alaska.
As governor, Clark oversaw the establishment of Alaska’s first legislature. But after four years, he grew tired of the job, resigned and moved back to the continental United States. He never sought political office again.
Instead of returning to Washington, Clark settled in Charleston. He purchased the News-Mail, renamed it The Charleston Mail and later the Charleston Daily Mail. He served as editor and publisher for more than 30 years.
To convey his ideals for the newspaper, Clark borrowed a line from Byron: “Without, or with, offense to friends or foes, I sketch your world exactly as it goes.” The motto appeared in each edition of the Daily Mail, and Clark had the line inscribed on a plaque that hung in the newsroom.
In 1927, he moved the Daily Mail headquarters into a new building at 1001 Virginia St., E., where the Charleston Gazette-Mail remains today.
After Clark’s death in 1950, the leadership of the Daily Mail passed to Frederick M. Staunton, a brother-in-law of Gov. Clark. Staunton served as publisher until he was succeeded by Lyell B. Clay, one of Gov. Clark’s stepsons. Clay joined the newspaper in 1956.
J.D. Maurice, a Daily Mail editor for many years until his retirement in 1978, won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished editorial writing in 1975.
In 1987, the Clay family sold the newspaper to Thomson Newspapers. MediaNews Group bought the paper in 1998, and the Gazette acquired it in 2004. The two papers were merged into the Charleston Gazette-Mail in 2015.