Virginia Assembly Commends a Journalist's Life: Arthur W. Arundel
Mar 27,2011

Photo by Douglas Lees <br /> <br />Journalist Arthur W. Arundel riding near Middleburg, VA. with Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Nov. 1990. Arundel died last month at the age of 83.
Photo by Douglas Lees
Journalist Arthur W. Arundel riding near Middleburg, VA. with Jackie Kennedy
Onassis, Nov. 1990. Arundel died last month at the age of 83.

By Sabrina Barekzai
Capital News Service

It was supposed to be a joyful occasion.

A legislative committee had selected community leader Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel as the Outstanding Virginian of the Year for 2011.

On Feb. 1, lawmakers introduced a resolution commending him for his “numerous contributions to the Commonwealth and the country.” The General Assembly planned to present the award to Arundel on Feb. 9. The Resolution was recommended by Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria) and Sen. Jill Vogel (D-Winchester).

Courtesy Photo <br /> <br />Arundel on a hilltop on Virginia’s Piedmont mountains last year.
Courtesy Photo
Arundel on a hilltop on Virginia’s Piedmont
mountains last year.

But on Feb. 8, Arundel died in his home in The Plains at age 83. And so the mood at the ceremony the next day was solemn and dignified.

Later in the month, when the General Assembly officially passed House Joint Resolution 927 and the identical Senate Joint Resolution 492, the wording had been changed from “commending” to “celebrating the life of Arthur W. Arundel.”

As the resolutions noted, there was a lot to celebrate: Arundel’s life consisted of numerous local, national and international achievements.

Arundel is survived by Margaret, his wife of 53 years, and their five children. John H. Arundel of Alexandria,  the founding Publisher of The Alexandria Times and now the Associate Publisher of Washington Life magazine, is the second to youngest child. He said his father was delighted at being selected Outstanding Virginian for 2011.

“We were very honored that he was chosen," John Arundel said.  "My father dedicated his life to giving back to his community, both as a journalist and a philanthropist.”

Arthur Windsor Arundel was born in Washington, D.C. in 1928, and grew up there during the Great Depression, the son of a lobbyist, Pepsi Cola bottler and confidante to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Russell M. Arundel.  In 1935, FDR gave Russell Arundel a series of sketches that he made during Cabinet Meetings during the Depression which formed the basis of a book that he authored, "Roosevelt's Doodles." The senior Arundel was also a close friend of Harry Truman; the two rarely missed their spirited "Friday Night Poker" games, even long after Truman took up residence at The White House.

Photo Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps<br /> <br />Arundel in the United States Marine Corps, 1954.
Photo Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps
Arundel in the United States Marine Corps, 1954.

Nicky Arundel was an early journalistic crusader, declaring in a blaring headline at age 9 in his self-published "Nicky's News" that "Adolph Hitler of Germany is Dumb!" and prodding National Zoo officials to add giraffes there. When Zoo officials capitulated in 1940, the story and accompanying photo of the pint-sized publisher landed him on the front page of The Washington Post.

Arundel attended Horace Mann Elementary and Sidwell Friends schools, before landing a Marine Corps scholarship to Harvard University in 1947, where his classmates included Henry Kissinger and Robert F. Kennedy.  Arundel managed the football team in which RFK served as a fullback, and the two forged a close friendship that would last for two decades, with Arundel and Kennedy becoming neighbors in McLean, Va. and Arundel being appointed a senior advisor to RFK's 1968 presidential campaign.

Upon graduating from Harvard University in 1951, he joined the Marine Corps and earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in Korea. Four years later, Arundel earned his second Purple Heart after being wounded as a paramilitary CIA officer in the early stages of the Vietnam conflict.

After his distinguished military service, Arundel was hired by the legendary Edward R. Murrow in the CBS Washington Bureau, working first as a producer for "Face The Nation" and later as a Pentagon correspondent for United Press International.

With his foot in the door of Washington journalism, Arundel took the next step: After purchasing a bankrupt country and western radio station in Arlington, Va.  in 1960, a year later Arundel boldly changed the format to "all news all the time," establishing the nation’s first all-news radio station, WAVA. The station was a commercial and ratings hit; in 1968 during a presidential press meeting in the West Wing of The White House, President Lyndon B. Johnson flicked a button under his desk and WAVA came on in the Oval Office. "That's how I find out what's really going on in Vietnam, son."

Courtesy Photo <br /> <br />Arundel with two baby gorillas, Moka and Nikumba, that he brought back from the Belgian Congo in 1955. The gorillas became the first to be held in captivity at the National Zoo. Later, Arundel co-founded Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) and the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation (AWLF).
Courtesy Photo
Arundel with two baby gorillas,
 Moka and Nikumba, that
he brought back from the
Belgian Congo in 1955. The
gorillas became the first to
 be held in captivity at the
National Zoo. Later, Arundel
co-founded Friends of the
National Zoo (FONZ)
and the African Wildlife
Leadership Foundation (AWLF).

Arundel went on to create Arundel Communications and Times Community Media, which owned and managed 19 community weeklies in Northern Virginia, several radio stations and one of the nation's first community news cable outlets, Loudoun County Cable News 33 in Leesburg, in 1982. The company is now run by his eldest son Peter W. Arundel, of McLean.

Besides his many triumphs and accomplishments in the media world, Arundel was an avid outdoorsman and enthusiastic equestrian, founding the Great Meadow Field Events Center in 1984,  home to The Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup races, which attract 80,000 spectators each year on the first Saturday in May and third Saturday in October.

He also saw a strong connection between journalism and politics, John Arundel said.

“My father loved the interplay between the power of journalism and how it influenced public policy. He was friend and confidante to U.S. presidents, Virginia governors and senators, but always made time to chat up his readers and advertisers, who forged the backbone of his community newspapers, which won 800 first-place awards in journalism,” John Arundel said.

Arundel’s newspapers consistently won accolades from the Virginia Press Association and Suburban Newspapers of America, garnering “Best Weekly” honors 22 times and more than 800 first place awards in journalism.

“He was proud to be a Virginia newspaper publisher, adhering to the principles of his idol, Thomas Jefferson,” John Arundel said.

Like Jefferson, Arthur Arundel lived a life steeped in public service. He was widely known for his involvement in nonprofit organizations. He co-founded the African Wildlife Foundation and the Piedmont Environmental Council and was instrumental in the founding of George Mason University.

Reflecting on his commitment to hard work and philanthropy, Arthur Arundel once said that life unfolds in three stages: “In the first part of your life, you learn. In the second, you earn. And in the third, you give it all back.”


Courtesy Photo <br /> <br />Arundel is survived by his wife of 54 years, Peggy Arundel, and five children. <br />
Courtesy Photo
Arundel is survived by his wife of 54 years, Peggy
Arundel, and five children.

‘The Loss of an Outstanding Virginian’

Here is the text of House Joint Resolution 927 and Senate Joint Resolution 492:

WHEREAS, Arthur W. Arundel, a legendary leader in communications who advocated for the founding of George Mason University and helped preserve thousands of acres of pristine land near The Plains, died on February 8, 2011; and

WHEREAS, born on January 12, 1928, in Washington, D.C., Arthur “Nick” Arundel was the son of Pepsi-Cola Bottling executive Russell Arundel and his wife, Marjorie; and

WHEREAS, a graduate of Sidwell Friends School, Nick Arundel received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and proudly served his country as a special forces combat officer in the United States Marine Corps, earning Purple Hearts in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel’s extraordinary career in communications began when he covered the nation’s capital as a correspondent for CBS News before moving to United Press International and reporting on the White House; and

WHEREAS, a visionary entrepreneur, Nick Arundel bought a bankrupt country music radio station in Washington, D.C., and launched the first 24-hour news programming station, WAVA, at a time when the listeners wanted up-to-date coverage of the Vietnam War; and

WHEREAS, the station’s revolutionary new format proved to be an instant success that led to the acquisition of other radio and cable television stations that delivered “all news all the time,” while other media outlets across the nation adopted the new model; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel later ventured into newspaper publishing, purchasing or starting up many of the Commonwealth’s popular publications, including the Loudoun Times-Mirror, the Fauquier Times-Democrat, and the Reston Times; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel was an early leader and advocate for a four-year institution of higher education in Northern Virginia, eventually serving as the first board chair of George Mason University and profoundly influencing its growth and direction; and

WHEREAS, a resident of The Plains, Nick Arundel was instrumental in preserving and restoring the small community and later founded Great Meadow there, a 250-acre events facility and steeplechase course that hosts numerous community events throughout the year; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel played a pivotal role in the local community, cofounding The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a scenic American history and cultural trail; the United States Marine Corps Heritage Center; and the Friends of the National Zoo; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel’s innovative ideas and driving energy shaped the way media outlets delivered news, strongly influenced the creation and direction of George Mason University, and preserved some of the Commonwealth’s most scenic lands; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel received many local, state, and national awards and accolades throughout his life and on the day after his death, was to receive the Outstanding Virginian of the Year award for 2011; and

WHEREAS, Nick Arundel will be greatly missed by his wife of more than 50 years, Margaret; children, Sally, Wendy, Tom, John, and Peter, and their families; and his numerous other family members, friends, and admirers; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the General Assembly hereby note with great sadness the loss of an outstanding Virginian, Arthur W. Arundel; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to the family of Arthur W. Arundel as an expression of the General Assembly’s respect for his memory.

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