Josephus Daniels (May 18, 1862 – January 15, 1948) was a progressive Democrat, and newspaper editor and publisher from North Carolina who was appointed by United States President Woodrow Wilson to serve as Secretary of the Navy during World War I. He was also a close friend and supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served as his Ambassador to Mexico, 1933-41.
He was a newspaper editor and publisher from the 1880s to his death; most famously at the Raleigh News and Observer. As Secretary of the Navy, he handled formalities in World War I while his top aide Franklin Delano Roosevelt, handled the major wartime decisions. As ambassador to Mexico, he dealt with the anti-American government and its expropriation of American oil investments. At the state level he was a leading progressive, supporting public schools and public works, and calling for more regulation of trusts and railroads. He supported prohibition and women's suffrage, and used his newspapers to support the regular Democratic Party ticket. He opposed the Ku Klux Klan, but was a longtime champion of white supremacy, arguing that as long as African Americans had political power they would block progressive reforms.
Early life and career
Josephus Daniels was born to a shipbuilder in Washington, North Carolina, a state which had seceded from the Union in 1861. Before he was 3, his father was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter, because of his well-known Union sympathies. The father was attempting to leave with Federal forces evacuating Washington, N.C. during the Civil War. Young Daniels then moved with his widowed mother and two siblings to Wilson, North Carolina. He was educated at Wilson Collegiate Institute and at Trinity College (now Duke University). He edited and eventually purchased a local newspaper, the Wilson Advance. Within a few years, he became part owner of the Kinston Free Press and the Rocky Mount Reporter. He studied law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was admitted to the bar in 1885, but did not practice law. After becoming increasingly involved in the North Carolina Democratic Party and taking over the weekly paper Daily State Chronicle, he was North Carolina's state printer in 1887-93 and chief clerk of the Federal Department of the Interior under Grover Cleveland in 1893-95.
In 1888, Daniels married Addie Worth Bagley, the granddaughter of former Governor Jonathan Worth.
News and Observer
In 1894, Daniels acquired a controlling interest in the Raleigh News & Observer, which led him to leave his federal office. The paper was unabashed in its advocacy for the Democratic Party, which at the time was struggling against a fusion of the Republicans and Populists.
Daniels and other Democrats launched a "White Supremacy" campaign to appeal to racist sentiment. That led to Democratic victories in 1898 and 1900 and to the disfranchisement of African Americans. On December 15, 2005, the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission noted in its draft report that Daniels' involvement in the overthrow of the elected city government of Wilmington, North Carolina, by actively promoting white supremacy in The News and Observer was so significant that he has been referred to as the "precipitator of the riot."
Daniels later said he regretted his tactics and supported a number of progressive causes, like public education, anti child-labor laws, and banning the consumption of alcohol aboard naval vessels.
The News and Observer remained under Daniels' family control until its sale to The McClatchy Company in 1995.
His home at Raleigh from about 1894 to 1913, the Rogers-Bagley-Daniels-Pegues House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Daniels supported Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential election, and after Wilson's victory was appointed as Secretary of the Navy.
Secretary Daniels held the post from 1913 to 1921, throughout the Wilson administration, overseeing the Navy during World War I. Future U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt served as his Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Secretary Daniels believed in government ownership of armorplate factories, and of telephones and telegraphs. At the end of the First World War he made a serious attempt to have the Navy permanently control all radio transmitters in the United States. If he had succeeded amateur radio would have ended, and it is likely that radio broadcasting would have been substantially delayed.
Daniels banned alcohol from United States Navy ships in General Order 99 of 1 June 1914. This led to the folk etymology that "cup of joe" (referring to a cup of coffee) derives from Daniels' name. However, this appeared to be a myth, rather than truth.
In 1917, Secretary Daniels determined that no prostitution would be permitted within a five-mile radius of naval installations. In New Orleans, this World War I directive caused the shutting down of Storyville and long-lasting consequences for servicemen and others during subsequent decades.
On March 15, 1919, Daniels issued General Order No. 456. prohibiting all forms of work on the Sabbath. He ordered, "In order to insure a proper observance of the Lord’s Day in the Navy of the United States, and to provide the officers and men with rest and recreation so essential to efficiency, the following order will be carry out: Hereafter all commanding officers and others officially concerned will see to it that aboard ships and on shore stations to which they are attached, no work of any character whatsoever is performed except works of necessity. This order will be construed and embracing target practice, and drills of every character, inspection of ship and crew, clothing inspection, issuing of small stores, and all other ship activities that violate the letter and spirit of this order. No vessel of the Navy shall begin cruise on Sunday except in case of emergency..."
During World War I, Daniels created the Naval Consulting Board to encourage inventions that would be helpful to the Navy. Daniels asked Thomas Edison to chair the Board. Daniels was worried that the US was unprepared for the new conditions of warfare and needed new technology.
The Newport Sex Scandal erupted due a Navy sting operation overseen by Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt that was conducted in 1919 in an attempt to clean up what were seen as "immoral conditions" at Naval Station Newport, but it soon expanded to the civilian population in Newport and resulted in the arrests and sometimes imprisonment of 17 sailors and a prominent Episcopal Navy chaplain for homosexual activity. When the tactics used in the witch hunt became known it attracted national news coverage and provoked a Congressional investigation that ended with both Daniels and Roosevelt, being rebuked by a Congressional committee. The report called FDR's behavior "reprehensible," and stated that the actions "violated the code of the American citizen and ignored the rights of every American boy who enlisted in the Navy to fight for his country."
Daniels wrote The Navy and the Nation (1919), a collection of war addresses he made as Secretary of the Navy.
USS Josephus Daniels
The Navy named USS Josephus Daniels (DLG/CG-27) for the Secretary. It was in commission from 1965 to 1994. One of the recruit barracks at the Navy's Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois is also named for him.
After leaving government service in 1921, Daniels resumed the editorship of the Raleigh News and Observer.
Daniels strongly supported Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1932.
Ambassador to Mexico
President Roosevelt appointed his former boss at the Department of the Navy as United States Ambassador to Mexico. The appointment of a friend as Ambassador was an important element of Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy;" however, Daniels' arrival in Mexico City was marred by a violent demonstration when a group of Mexicans stoned the American Embassy.
After accepting the appointment as Ambassador to try to heal the rift the invasion had created between the two nations, his speeches and policies while serving as Ambassador to Mexico did greatly improve US-Mexican relations. He praised a proposed Mexican plan for universal popular education and, in a speech to US consular officials, advised them to refrain from interfering too much in the affairs of other nations. Daniels also favored the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War, realizing that a collapse of the Spanish government would have dire effects on Mexico.
American Catholics bitterly attacked Daniels for failing to oppose the virulent attacks on the Catholic Church by the Mexican government. Daniels was a staunch Methodist and worked with Catholics in the U.S. but had little sympathy for Church in Mexico, feeling it represented the landed aristocracy that stood opposed to his version of liberalism. For the same reason he supported the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, which was even more violently anti-Catholic. The main issue was the government's efforts to shut down Catholic schools; Daniels publicly approved the attacks, and had praised virulently anti-Catholic Mexican politicians. In a July 1934 speech at the American Embassy, Daniels praised the anti-Catholic efforts led by former president Calles:
- "General Calles sees, as Jefferson saw, that no people can be both free and ignorant. Therefore, he and President Rodriguez, President-elect Cairdenas and all forward-looking leaders are placing public education as the paramount duty of the country. They all recognize that General Calles issued a challenge that goes to the very root of the settlement of all problems of tomorrow when he said: 'We must enter and take possession of the mind of childhood, the mind of youth.'"
However he did warn the Mexicans they should not be so harsh.
Return to North Carolina
In 1941, when his son, Jonathan, was named a special assistant to Roosevelt, Josephus resigned his post in Mexico to return to North Carolina and resume the editor's post at the News & Observer and continued his outspoken editorial style.
Daniels had married Addie Worth Bagley on May 2, 1888, and the Daniels family grew to include four sons: Josephus, Worth Bagley, Jonathan Worth, and Frank A. II. After Addie Daniels died in 1943, the S.S. Addie Daniels was commissioned in her honor in 1944.
Daniels published several recollections of his years in public office. In addition to The Navy and the Nation, he wrote Our Navy at War (1922), The Life of Woodrow Wilson (1924), and The Wilson Era (1944).
Daniels, along with his son Jonathan, were passengers on Franklin Roosevelt's 1945 funeral train onwards from Raleigh, North Carolina until the burial at Roosevelt's Hyde Park, New York burial at his home, Springwood, and then back to Washington in the company of new President Harry S. Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt
During the course of his life, Daniels operated several newspapers, culminating with the News & Observer, which is still in operation. He served in public office with a strong belief in improving conditions for labor and the working class. The story of Daniels' life closely mirrors that of North Carolina during the same time period. From the catastrophe of Civil War to national prominence, Daniels was a prime example of the strengths and weaknesses that marked the progress of his state. From the continuing presence of the News & Observer to the public middle school in Raleigh which bears his name (Josephus Daniels Middle School), the influence of Josephus Daniels continues to be felt. In 1941, he retired to Raleigh due to his wife's poor health. After completing a five-volume autobiography in which he expressed regret over the vicious attacks (but not the overall righteousness) of the White Supremacy campaign, he died in Raleigh on January 15, 1948 at the age of eighty-five. He is buried in Historic Oakwood Cemetery. Daniels divided his shares of the News and Observer among all his children, one of whom, Jonathan Worth Daniels, became editor.
Eight years after he died, the new Daniels Middle School was named after him. Daniels Hall on North Carolina State University's main campus is also named after him.
In Harry Turtledove's "Southern Victory" series of alternate history, Daniels was US Secretary of the Navy during the timeline's analog of World War I, and the US Navy named a destroyer escort after him during the series's version of World War II.
- 1919 -- The Navy and the Nation. New York: George H. Doran Company. OCLC 1450710
- 1922 -- Our Navy at War. Washington, D.C.: Pictorial Bureau. OCLC 1523367
- 1924 -- The Life of Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924. Philadelphia: Universal Book and Bible House. OCLC 4894794. reprint by Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-0-7661-8631-6; OCLC 81967751
- 1939 -- Tar heel editor. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. OCLC 335116
- 1941 -- Editor in Politics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. OCLC 339245
- 1944 -- The Wilson Era: Years of Peace, 1910-1917. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. OCLC 750810 (1944 edition); OCLC 63786963 (1946 edition)
- 1946 -- The Wilson era: years of war and after, 1917-1923, Volume 4. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- 1947 -- Shirt-sleeve Diplomat. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. OCLC 422237