Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Charles Hodel

Newspaperman Charles Hodel (January 13, 1889-June 16, 1973) was born in Ohio, the a son of immigrant Swiss parents. He learned the printing trade and established himself in Beckley in 1912 as editor and general manager of the Raleigh Register, which became a daily in 1928. In 1929, Hodel and associates acquired control of the Register’s competitor, the Post-Herald, a daily since 1924. It became the morning paper and the Register the afternoon and Sunday paper.

Hodel’s two newspapers promoted many public projects and causes. Hodel was a leader in introducing the Beckley Area Rural Development Council. An early West Virginia conservationist, Hodel began an editorial campaign for conservation in the timbered-out hardwood forests of West Virginia. He also fought irresponsible strip mining.

He helped to found the local chamber of commerce and served a term as its president. As chairman of the chamber’s airport committee, he was instrumental in developing the Beckley Mount Hope Airport in 1933. Later, Hodel bought the land for the present Raleigh County Memorial Airport and held it until Raleigh County was able to buy it from him. Built in the early 1950s, the new airport attracted commercial airline service to the county.

Hodel helped to establish the West Virginia Historical Drama Association, now Theatre West Virginia, producer of the outdoor dramas ‘‘Honey in the Rock’’ and ‘‘Hatfields and McCoys’’ at nearby Grandview. He also campaigned for the development of New River Park in Beckley and worked to bring non-mining industry to the county. Hodel waged a long and bitter editorial battle with the United Mine Workers of America, and his campaign against illegal liquor sales and slot machines in private clubs was not popular with some.

Charles Hodel was the Charleston Gazette’s ‘‘man of the year’’ in 1961, and was named in 1963 to the West Virginia Press Association’s Hall of Fame. His newspapers were sold to Clay Communications of Charleston in 1976.

Written by Jim Wood