- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

Emile J. Hodel, 80, newspaper editor

HOUSTON (AP) — Emile J. Hodel, former editor of the Beckley, W.Va., Post-Herald and a rare Republican editorial voice in southern West Virginia, died Tuesday. He was 80.

Mr. Hodel was born and raised in Beckley but spent most of his last years in Houston, where he was, as he put it, “a willing guinea pig” for researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who wanted to study his very rare form of leukemia.

In almost 21 years as editor of the Post-Herald, Mr. Hodel penned a six-day-a-week editorial-page column, “Top O’ the Morning.”

Mr. Hodel, whose family also founded the predecessor newspapers to the Greenbrier Independent in Lewisburg and the Monroe Watchman of Union, wished to be known as a newspaperman who stood on principle regardless of personal cost, and that determination led him to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Beckley Newspapers Corp. was sued by a candidate for county clerk who said he had been libeled during his re-election campaign by Post-Herald editorials. A Raleigh County Circuit Court jury ruled for the clerk and awarded damages.

The finding was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967, and the case known as Beckley Newspapers Corp. v. Hanks became an important expansion of newspapers’ First Amendment protections, by defining what is — and what is not — “reckless disregard” in editorial writing.

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