Editor’s note; Billy Warden is a writer, marketing exec and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the p.r. agency GBW Strategies.  He’s a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. 


RALEIGH – Frank Daniels Jr. was right again. My last chat with the longtime publisher of The News & Observer came when I held his arm and escorted him from a family party to the 100-ton nuclear submarine of a vehicle he had somehow navigated there.

Frank: Everything hurts and I’m gonna be dead soon.
Me: Nah, you still gotta get your car home, so don’t count yourself out yet.
Frank: Well, I’m 90-damn-years-old. If not soon, THEN WHEN???

He died weeks later on June 30, and today we officially say farewell. In 32 years, Frank and I had come a long way … from me as a cub reporter watching in awe as he prowled the newsroom  … to me as a friend and in-law, holding his quivering hand, still looking at him in awe. But a different kind of awe. No longer a remote giant, but a man w/ flaws and foibles, inconsistencies and endearing quirks.

Photo courtesy of Billy Warden

A man who could be sentimental. Watching and re-watching a glitchy old wedding video because he adored the voice of an amateur singer. Calling every birthday to warble a celebratory song (and ‘warble’ is being generous!).

A man naturally bent toward bad-assery. Shooting spikey questions at politicians during their fundraisers. And, um, COLORFULLY critiquing million dollar art – right in front of the bemused curator. The kinds of pokes and prods we all daydream about venturing, but rarely dare.

Teaming with the talented, hard charging journalists at the N&O, he jabbed and took big swings at the powers-that-be, from federal agencies to universities down the road.

Frank was real. Or in the watchword of the day, ‘authentic’ – heck, he put in the ‘awe’ in authentic. Born with a lot, he also gave a lot. For many of us, he was at his best when he gave’em hell.

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