Retired Aiken Standard publisher and community leader Scott Beale Hunter, 69, passed away at his home on Tuesday following a lengthy illness.
Hunter, who spent his working career with the Aiken Standard, was the newspaper’s publisher from 1989 until his retirement in 2013. During his tenure, he helped lead the newspaper from the days of typewriters and paste-up to computers and pagination. He played an active role in several civic and charitable organizations in the community.
A native of Bethesda, Maryland, Hunter graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in history and earned his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
He began his journalism career in 1973 as a sports writer for the Aiken Standard, with plans to get enough experience until he would be able to seek a job with a larger newspaper.
From sports writer, he was promoted to sports editor for the Standard working hard to ensure that all the local high schools received coverage of their athletic teams. Publisher Sam Cothran took note of Hunter’s ambition and work ethic, naming him news editor. Hunter quickly rose to the positions of managing editor, editor and then general manager of the newspaper before being elevated to publisher. During Hunter’s time in those escalating leadership positions, the Aiken Standard went from a five-day-a-week to a six-day publication.
As the newspaper industry began changing rapidly, Hunter led the newspaper into the computer age, attending training sessions with vendors, working with the installation of computer systems and teaching the staff to use the new technology.
Following Cothran’s retirement, Hunter was elevated to publisher of the Aiken Standard and president of Aiken Communications Inc. Early in his time as publisher, the Aiken Standard became a seven-day-a-week newspaper.
“Scott was a longtime leader within our company,” said John Barnwell, president and CEO of Evening Post Industries, parent company of the Aiken Standard, “not only as a truly outstanding newspaper publisher, but also as a mentor and example for the rest of us.”
“He conducted all aspects of his life with absolute integrity, candor and a sense of quiet wisdom that came naturally to him and was unique. He will be greatly missed,” Barnwell said.
“He was dedicated, fair, passionate, humble, and his daily actions reflected his faith,” said Diane Daniell, sales and special projects manager with the Aiken Standard. “I remember sitting at the 2011 Chamber Dinner, and they were describing the 2011 Man of the Year. I had no idea Scott was involved in so many charitable organizations. He did it for the right reasons to help people in Aiken not for recognition.”
Daniell, who worked for Hunter for 24 years, said, “He will be missed by all who had the pleasure of working with him and knowing him. I feel truly blessed to call him my friend and mentor.”
While publisher of the Aiken Standard, he provided innovative leadership in a changing industry, adding a television component to the newspaper and providing live local high school football telecasts for viewers.
“Scott was a wonderful publisher and community leader,” said Ellen Priest who worked with Hunter for more than 20 years and succeeded him as publisher of the Aiken Standard. “He never forgot our obligation to the community to hold our elected officials accountable, and he always provided fair and balanced coverage.”
In addition to his involvement with the local paper, Hunter was also in positions of responsibility with the S.C. Press Association. He served as president of the organization, presided over the S.C. Press Association Foundation and was a Foundation board member.
“Scott was an effective statewide leader on press issues as president to the S.C. Press Association,” said Bill Rogers, the group’s executive director. “Scott was always willing to speak up on legislative and media issues. … He epitomized classiness and leadership.”
Hunter was involved in a number of community activities while with the newspaper and following his retirement. He was an active member and elder at Aiken’s First Presbyterian Church. He served on and chaired the boards of the United Way of Aiken County, the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons, First Steps and the Etherredge Center Orchestra. He also chaired the Child Advocacy Center board and recently served as co-chair for the Children’s Place capital campaign, Stand Up for the Children.
“He was always actively involved in making our community a better place for everyone, especially those who were in need,” said Peggy Ford, executive director of Children’s Place.
In 1969 the only Scott Hunter I knew of was the quarterback for Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide.
She noted that he was a “true leader with a commitment of steel” and while working with Children’s Place was never concerned with personal recognition but always maintained his focus on the children and their families.
“He was Aiken’s own Mr. Rogers,” Ford said, “patient, kind and filled with wisdom and empathy.”
Sharon Rodgers, president of the United Way of Aiken County, recalled Hunter’s impact on that organization.
“Throughout his life, he remained a faithful (United Way) supporter and encouraged his beloved Aiken Standard and its team members to be supportive as well,” she said. “Scott was the epitome of a Southern gentleman. He was kind, compassionate and generous.”
Hunter was president of the Rotary Club of Aiken and the Aiken Kiwanis Club. He chaired the City of Aiken’s Arts and Culture Committee during the 1993 strategic planning process and was a member of Aiken’s All-America City Committee in 1997.
Hunter also was on the board of ACTS (Area Churches Together Serving); the Center for African American History, Art and Culture; the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce; the USC Aiken Partnership; the Aiken Technical College Foundation; the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center; Aiken Corporation; Aiken Downtown Development Association; the Salvation Army and Cities In Schools.
He spearheaded the Quality of Life group, an informal gathering that met monthly for lunch to discuss and resolve some community issues at the root-cause level.
“He was a force of nature,” Ford said, “relentless, unstoppable and unforgettable.”
In 1997 Hunter was named Volunteer of the Year for the United Way of Aiken County. In 1998 he received USC Aiken’s Distinguished Citizen Award, and in 2011 the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce chose him as Man of the Year.
In 2013 during his retirement ceremony, Hunter was presented with the South Carolina Silver Crescent award, the state’s highest civilian honor for significant contributions, leadership, volunteerism and lifelong influence within a community.
"Scott was, above all, the quintessential gentleman," said Pierre Manigault, chairman of the Board of Evening Post Industries. "He was also one of the best all-around newspaper publishers I’ve known. Behind the impeccable manners and gentle ways was a journalist and businessman with great instincts and the amazing ability to seemingly always make the right decision.
"Scott was wildly popular within both the Aiken community and the Evening Post family and will be greatly missed by both," Manigault added.
Dr. Tom Hallman, chancellor emeritus of USC Aiken, worked with Hunter on several community endeavors and recognized his leadership abilities and his devotion to accomplish the mission at hand in each one.
“We may never fully know the extent of his direct and indirect impact on our community,” Hallman said, “but we can honor his memory by continuing his commitments to civility, fairness and excellence.”
Hunter loved playing golf at Palmetto Golf Club. He enjoyed traveling abroad, especially to the British Isles, and an avid reader, he was fond of British murder mysteries.
He married the love of his life, Lois McFadden Hunter, a nurse at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, in 1981. She passed away in 2009, leaving a void in his life. Together they had a daughter, Eleanor Hunter, who is an officer with the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
His parents, Dr. James (Jim) Hunter and Dorothy Louise Beale Hunter, preceded him in death.
Hunter is survived by his daughter, Eleanor Hunter of Aiken, and siblings Jamie Hunter of Olney, Maryland; Kristin Viands of Keene, New Hampshire; and Doug Hunter of College Park, Maryland.
Visitation will be Friday evening at George Funeral Home from 5 to 7 p.m. Services will be held Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Aiken.
Contributions in Hunter’s memory may be sent to the USC Aiken Foundation, Lois McFadden Hunter Nursing Scholarship, 471 University Parkway, Aiken, South Carolina 29801.