H. Brandt “Brandy” Ayers, a longtime Alabama newspaper executive and a 1968 Nieman Fellow, died on May 3. He was 85.
From the mid-1960s until 2016, Ayers was publisher of The Anniston Star, a newspaper noted for its liberal stances, including supporting school integration in the 1960s and 1970s. Ayers also served for many years as president of Consolidated Publishing, the company that owns the Star as well as four other publications. He resigned as chairman of the company in 2018 after admitting to spanking a Star reporter in the 1970s and other Star employees came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.
Born in 1935, Ayers attended the University of Alabama and served in the Navy as an officer. Following his naval career, he briefly worked at The Anniston Star before joining The Raleigh Times in North Carolina as a capitol reporter. He later worked for the Bascom Timmons Bureau, a wire service covering the Southeast, and reported from Washington, D.C., on stories including the conflict between Alabama Governor George Wallace and the Kennedy administration over the integration of the University of Alabama.
In the 1960s, the Star’s editorials about race angered many of the paper’s white readers. Ayers was a co-founder of a multiracial group that worked to address integration at Anniston-area institutions. He also become a regular NPR commentator.