H. Brandt “Brandy” Ayers, the longtime publisher of The Anniston Star and a number of weekly papers in Alabama has died. He was 85.
Ayers was the President of Consolidated Publishing. The company and Ayers are best known for the Anniston Star, but the company also owns and publishes: The Talladega Daily Home, The Cleburne News, The News-Journal and The St. Clair Times.
Ayers earned a reputation as a “liberal” for his editorials promoting a number of progressive causes over the years. The Star ran so far leftward leaning that many conservatives jokingly referred to it as the “Red Star”, a nickname that is being attributed to former Governor George C. Wallace (D).
“For all of my life, he was at the head of a good small newspaper, a good community newspaper and just a good newspaper of any size,” Pulitzer-winning reporter Rick Bragg, a former Star reporter, told the Anniston Star. “And he put out a progressive newspaper at a time when it would have been easier to pander.”
The Anniston Star was founded in 1883 as the Anniston Evening Star. In 1911, managing editor Col. Harry M. Ayers left the paper to start his own paper, the Anniston Hot Blast. Col. Ayers then merged with the struggling Evening Star to form the Anniston Hot Blast and Evening Star. Eventually, the paper became the Anniston Star. H. Brandt Ayers took over management of the paper from his father in 1968.
Managing editor Ben Cunningham said, “The Star is here because he and his family made it a place where reporters wanted to work. Because of that reputation for excellence and asking important questions, I was happy to stay.”
“Brandy Ayers was instrumental in creating the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation in the 1960s, and supported the efforts of the Foundation through the years,” said Felicia Mason, executive director of the Alabama Press Association. “This arm of the Alabama Press Association supports journalism education in Alabama through grants, internships and scholarships to high school and college students and the institutions.”
In 2003 Ayers won the Editorial Leadership Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
In 2016 accusations of longtime sexual harassment surfaced. Ayers acknowledged spanking female employees and resigned.
Consolidated Publishing is now led by Ayers’ wife, Josephine.
A memorial service will be announced later.
Based on original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Amy Yurkanin, the Anniston Star, and Wikipedia.