July 24, 2002 Ariel Melchior Sr., the dominant media force in the Virgin Islands for more than four decades, died Tuesday night at Roy L. Schneider Hospital. He was 93.
Melchior was best known as the founder, with educator and poet J. Antonio Jarvis, of the The Daily News in 1930. Melchior bought out Jarvis's share of the newspaper in 1940.
He was a crusading newspaperman, taking strong editorial stands on issues and holding firm even in the face of threatened boycotts. He remained the top executive at the newspaper, directing its day-to-day operations and editorials, until he sold it in 1978 to the Gannett Co. Inc.
Even after that, Melchior Sr. remained involved and interested in the newspaper's daily performance, often offering story ideas and critiques and rejoicing when the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1995.
He also remained an astute observer of the islands' political scene. Although retired, he maintained an office in downtown Charlotte Amalie and went there daily. One of his projects after he retired was the 1981 publication of "Thoughts Along the Way," a compilation of Daily News editorials.
Melchior's health had deteriorated in recent years, and he and his wife, Gertrude Dudley Melchior, moved last year to Seaview Nursing Home. Gertrude Melchior died in February.
Ariel Melchior Sr. was born Feb. 22, 1909, on St. Thomas. He attended public schools on the island and launched his newspaper career in the 1920s as a printer with the old St. Thomas Mail Notes. During the first decade of his association with Jarvis in the Daily News, Melchior worked mainly as its business manager.
In 1975, the Legislature honored Melchior with a resolution that called the Daily News a "viable force in influencing the economic and political development" of the Virgin Islands.
Survivors include sons Ariel Melchior Jr., publisher and editor of the Daily News, and Earl Melchior; six daughters, Marjorie Preston, Valerie Wade, Rita Watley, Norma Gomez, Laurel Melchior and Juel Love; stepchildren George Dudley Jr. and Rita Grant; sister Zelina Petersen; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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