I never met Hugh Hefner, but in 1979 I interviewed Derick Daniels, the Raleigh newspaper scion tapped by Hefner to shape up sloppily-run Playboy Enterprises.
“Hefner — the vicarious experience — is our most important promotional product,” Daniels told me in his Chicago office. “It’s a helluva lot more productive than taking out ads in the Wall Street Journal touting ourselves. But I couldn’t stand the lack of privacy that goes with having your life promoted that way….
“I don’t want to be Hugh Hefner, just Derick Daniels.”
Being “just Derick,” however, wasn’t exactly a commitment to the piety so prominently espoused by his grandfather Josephus. When Derick Daniels died in 2005, at age 76, Frank Daniels Jr. recalled that his cousin had been attracted to Playboy “because it had the three things in the world he enjoyed the most: drinking, gambling and women. You scored pretty well with all three with Playboy.”
[While he was governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s] polio seemed almost forgotten — but would the nation at large react the same when he ran for president?
“To reassure any doubters, his old friend and navy superior Josephus Daniels penned an article for the Saturday Evening Post in September 1932…. ‘The fact that conservative and nonpolitical life insurance executives,’ Daniels wrote, ‘after thorough examination by medical experts, insured his life for $500,000 thus demonstrated by the highest testimony that physically he is sound.’
“While not perceived as cured, Franklin was generally regarded by his physicians as having overcome the worst of his disability….In fact, Franklin could get around only moderately better than he could a decade earlier; what [Warm Springs Rehabilitation Institute] had done was strengthen his upper body and, more important, his spirit….”
— From “The Wars of the Roosevelts” by William J. Mann (2016)
“In 1919, Navy Secretary [Josephus] Daniels – whose crusade against sin went far beyond banning wine in the officers’ mess – became concerned about homosexual behavior among sailors in Newport, Rhode Island.
“This was almost 75 years before ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and almost a century before being gay was removed as a barrier to military service. Then, homosexuality was a very serious offense.
“Daniels ordered the base commander to clean things up, and the solution he found was to set up a sting operation, using new sailors as bait. To be certain the men they entrapped were indeed homosexuals, the recruits – some as young as 16 – were allowed to submit to fellatio – and praised for their ‘zeal’ in the investigation when they did so. As assistant secretary of the navy, FDR had signed off on the sting while Daniels was abroad, but denied knowing the sordid details.
“The case erupted…. Headlines laid the scandal at Roosevelt’s feet, with the story on the front page of the New York Times declaring the details to be ‘unprintable.’”
— From “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency” by Kathryn Smith (2016)
“As Furnifold Simmons kicked off the  campaign, his cohort Josephus Daniels used the Raleigh News and Observer to spread wildly exaggerated accounts of interracial clashes between average citizens on the streets of eastern North Carolina cities. Simmons recalled later that they ‘filled the papers… with portraits of Negro officers and candidates….The newspapers carried numerous exposures of Negro insolence and violence.
‘”At first some eastern North Carolinians laughed openly at the tactic. The New Berne Journal quipped: ‘The “outrage” editor of the News and Observer is getting “slow.” He has not reported a case in Craven County in three days.’
“Simmons collected contributions from industrialists across the state to reprint Daniels’ article as broadsides….”
— From “Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920” by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore (1996)
On this day in 1914: As Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of the navy, former Raleigh newspaper editor Josephus Daniels bans alcohol at officers’ mess aboard United States ships. The ban will go unbroken until 1980, when crew members of the aircraft carrier Nimitz are issued two beers apiece in recognition of their having been at sea for more than 100 days.
Daniels’ other innovations meet more resistance. To facilitate the training of recruits, he orders the terms port and starboard replaced with left and right. He has to abandon that effort, as well as one to make sailors wear pajamas.
In 1915, he halts the navy’s issuance of condoms, saying, “The use of this packet I believe to be immoral.” One result is that the navy suffers the highest incidence of venereal disease among the services. The onset of World War I causes Daniels to reluctantly give in; he leaves on an inspection trip, allowing his assistant — the young Franklin D. Roosevelt — to reverse the order.
The war gives Daniels leverage to clean up red-light districts that have fed off sailors. The most famous of these is Storyville in New Orleans, where the mayor argues strenuously, though futilely, for the “God-given right of men to be men.” By making Storyville’s brothels off-limits, Daniels removes the economic base of early jazz musicians, scattering them to Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis – and earning himself the wry title, “the Johnny Appleseed of Jazz.”
On this day in 1921: A banquet at Monroe’s Hotel Joffre welcomes Marshal Ferdinand Foch, commander of Allied forces during World War I, in the only N.C. stop on his nationwide victory tour.
Foch was scheduled to dine in Charlotte, but the Southern Railway refused to pull his private railroad car from the Monroe yards of rival Seaboard Airline, forcing Gov. Cameron Morrison, Josephus Daniels and other dignitaries to travel to Monroe.
“At 79, famed Tarheel Editor Josephus Daniels last week staged a spry comeback on his lively, incomplete, partisan, aggressive, successful Raleigh News & Observer. After a nine-year absence (as Ambassador to Mexico) shrewd old ‘Uncle Joe’ Daniels had ‘enlisted for the war’ to replace his son Jonathan, who went to OCD [Office of Civil Defense] in Washington.
“By contrast to his smart, facile son Jonathan, wrinkled old Editor Daniels, in his black planter’s hat and elder-statesman tie, was a figure who easily evoked oldtime reminiscences. A full-fledged editor at 18, he had tangled in many a garrulous crusade against North Carolina railroads, tobacco and power companies. Great pal of William Jennings Bryan (of whom he wrote an 8,000-word obituary in six hours) and a hard-shelled Dry, he banned liquor on Navy ships.
“Last week Editor Daniels added a commentary on his Navy days: ‘Even when I was “absent without leave” from the sanctum during the eight years as Secretary of the Navy in the Woodrow Wilson administration,’ chuckled old Josephus, ‘I thought of myself as managing editor of the Navy rather than as a Cabinet official.’ ”
— From Time magazine, February 16, 1942
Time certainly went into adjectival high gear for the Danielses and their newspaper, but where’s the imagination in referring to Josephus as “old” three times in three paragraphs?
Pictured: Josephus and Addie Daniels on one of their annual photo Christmas cards.
“Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow to our Pacific possessions…. Radio makes surprises impossible.”
— Josephus Daniels, publisher and former Navy secretary, dedicating station WLAC at North Carolina State College, Oct. 16, 1922.