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Nov 18 2013

Hunt Library robot named for former presidential press secretary, N&O editor

“In memory of Jonathan Worth Daniels”

Jonathan Worth Daniels

“I was a terrible strain on the library—I did much more reading outside of class than inside.”  So claimed Jonathan Worth Daniels (1902-1981) in an oral history recorded at the University of North Carolina in 1977.

If the statement is a true one—hardly a given to anyone acquainted with Mr. Daniels’ usual wit—it certainly would not be the first time that the treasures in a good university library set a bright person on a great path.  White House press secretary to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, long-time editor and publisher of The News & Observer, and author of twenty-one novels and books of history and cultural criticism, Jonathan Daniels left a strong legacy of tough-minded, progressive work that any library would be proud to claim.

The Josephus Daniels Charitable Foundation has made that legacy part of the Hunt Library by naming one of the four robots in the bookBot in memory of Jonathan Daniels, who served as president of the Friends of the Library in 1967-68.

Frank Daniels, Jr.—Jonathan Daniels’ nephew, 2012 North Carolinian of the Year, and himself a long-time N&O editor and force in the economic and cultural life of North Carolina—explained the thinking of the Foundation as they chose to honor his uncle:

Our principal thrust is in education, and we primarily give in eastern North Carolina and the Triangle.  I knew we wanted to give to the Hunt Library; my uncle Jonathan was always involved with the libraries at NC State.  And I was fascinated by the bookBot. It’s just the sort of innovative technology that should be strongly associated with our engineering school.

Frank Daniels, Jr. honors his uncle with Hunt Library robot

Citing the boon a great university is to the economy of a community, especially if the school is located in a state capital, Daniels sees the Hunt Library as an especially effective way to raise the profile of the College of Engineering:  “we need to do what needs to be done to accomplish that.”

Asked what his uncle’s response to the library might have been if he had been around for the Hunt Library opening, Frank Daniels, Jr. concluded: “Well, his first reaction to this grand building would have been to make a smart aleck comment to bring folks down to earth. But then he would have had something to say about how the building uplifts Centennial Campus and provides a center for it, how it is almost like the sun with its planets and satellites surrounding it—a point of inspiration.”

Jonathan Worth Daniels was named in honor of his grandfather, Jonathan Worth, North Carolina governor from 1865-1868.  His father, Josephus Daniels, was editor and publisher of the N&O, which he acquired in 1894, as well as Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy during World War I and United States Ambassador to Mexico during the Roosevelt administration.

In addition to editing the N&O, serving in a number of positions during the New Deal era, and gaining a national reputation as writer and historian, Jonathan Worth Daniels wrote for Fortune magazine, published a weekly column in The Nation, won a Guggenheim Fellowship, and served on the United Nations Subcommission for the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities.