AP veteran honored
for service as newsman

 

Noel Yancey, longtime North Carolina journalist, was a special guest at the School of Communications on Labor Day. He spoke in Janna Anderson's section of JCM 300 Reporting for the Public Good, was presented with a certificate honoring his years of public service as a newsman and was feted with a luncheon in his honor.

Special guests at the event included Yancey's daughter, Carra Schoene, and current Associated Press Raleigh Bureau Chief Sue Wilson. Yancey led a distinguished career of public service as an outstanding journalist and columnist from the 1930s on to the 1980s. He said he began a career as a reporter because of his interest in history. "Newspaper reporters handle the raw material of history," he said.

In the course of this career, he spent 39 years working for the Associated Press, one of the world's leading news organizations. He covered major stories every year of his service, including the crash of a munitions truck in Johnston County three months after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. A car had collided with the truck, and a Marine repeatedly risked his life returning to the gas-doused munitions truck and the crushed car to rescue crash victims. When the fire finally caused the munitions to ignite, the explosion blasted a 35-foot-deep crater in the highway, destroying a 35-room hotel, a gas station and other buildings nearby and almost wiping the town of Catch-Me-Eye off the map. Many people died in the incident.

Other big assignments Yancey tackled included Hurricane Hazel and the North Carolina crash of a multimillion-dollar Air Force B-52 Strategic Air Command bomber carrying two unarmed nuclear weapons in 1961. One of the devices was located; the other was not. "It was serious business," he said. "They'd lost an atomic bomb in Wayne County."

He performed the journalist's watchdog role in reporting and writing for many years about the North Carolina legislature and governor's office. In his years as a newsman, he covered 12 governors, from J.C.B. Ehringhaus through James Hunt Jr. Some of the most significant figures he covered included Richard M. Nixon,Thomas Dewey, Sam Ervin, Strom Thurmond and North Carolina governors Terry Sanford and R. Gregg Cherry.

A master interviewer who could put people at ease, Yancey is also known for his dry wit, according to his former colleagues at the AP's Raleigh Bureau. His wife, Frances, would occasionally accompany him when he was out doing interviews for stories.

After retiring from the AP in 1979, he continued writing - working as a columnist for The Spectator, a Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-area publication that later became known as the Independent. He will celebrate his 90th birthday in October.

In 1954, Yancey was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to cover Hurricane Hazel as it made landfall. He told students in Anderson's class about the difficulties he encountered.

"In those days, you filed your notes by phone, and I had to drive 50 miles inland from the coast to use the phone," Yancey said. He then returned to Myrtle Beach, gathered more notes and drove back to the same phone several hours later. "So I drove 100 miles that day just to use the phone twice."

He teased his daughter about the time she was a young girl and answered the phone at home when he was covering the arrival of a dangerous hurricane. "The AP had reported me missing," he explained. "It was a radio interview and when they asked about me she said, 'My mom's not worried about dad - she's worried about the new car.'"

Yancey told students reporters should have a tremendous sense of curiosity and be fair and honest. "Too many reporters today want to make the news, not report the news," he said.

His daughter Carra was at his side during the session he held with Elon students, helping jog his memory. "One of the things daddy was known for is fairness," she said. "He was always fair to his sources."

Yancey closed by reminding the students, most of whom weren't born when he retired from AP in 1979, "When you get to be 89, you know you have more yesterdays than tomorrows!"

Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications, presented Yancey with a certificate and a gift in honor of his career. The School of Communications traditionally hosts a Labor Day event to honor a person who has had a long and distinguished career in a communications-related profession.

 

 

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Last Modified:  9/01/03
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