Obituary: Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel, 1928-2011
Media publisher was also known for his work preserving land and protecting animals.
[This obituary first appeared on the Loudoun Times-Mirror's Web site and is reprinted here courtesy of that newspaper.]
On the eve of yet another honor in a long list of local, state, national and international acclaims, Loudoun Times-Mirror and Fauquier Times-Democrat publisher Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel died at his beloved Merry Oak Farm near The Plains, on Feb. 8.
He was 83, and was to be named the Outstanding Virginian of 2011 by the Virginia General Assembly Tuesday.
The son of Russell M. Arundel, a Pepsi-Cola executive and fox hunting enthusiast who once served as the chairman of the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association, and Marjorie Arundel, a renowned conservationist, Mr. Arundel took inspiration from both sides of the family.
He played polo and raced steeplechase horses, was an avid rider and foxhunter and founded Great Meadow Field Events Center.
Mr. Arundel raced Sugar Bee, the only Virginia-bred horse to win both the Maryland Hunt Cup and the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow. In his career, Sugar Bee earned Timber Horse of the Year and National Stock Horse Association Horse of the Year honors.
Mr. Arundel also was an early enthusiast and a lifelong energetic supporter of land conservation programs, helping launch and nurture conservation easement programs that have done much to preserve open space, agriculture and forestry in the northern Piedmont.
Wildcat Mountain, site of Merry Oak Farm, was one of the first large tracts of land to be put in conservation easement in Fauquier County. Altogether, the Arundel family has put more than 5,000 acres under conservation easement.
“Growth over the years just ahead here will probably be greater than in all of the combined history of Fauquier County,” Mr. Arundel wrote in a front-page statement of purpose in his first issue as owner of The Fauquier Democrat, which he bought in November 1974.
“It has the promise of creating opportunity for work and careers for young people here, which have not always been present. Growth must not and shall not happen at the price of destroying this county’s beauty, natural heritage and its vital farm industry.”
Great Meadow perhaps is the Fauquier County crown jewel that perfectly aligns Mr. Arundel’s interest in equestrian sport and land conservation.
The 540-acre tract had been destined for houses on one-acre lots when Mr. Arundel purchased the boggy, low-lying property.
“In an increasingly crowded nation with such large pieces of land for these events gradually disappearing,” Great Meadow Foundation trustees said in accepting Mr. Arundel’s gift of the land, “Great Meadow will provide a permanent, open-space green theater preserved from development to engage the graceful drama and color of these sports for the general public … For the community and legacy of these great sports, we are grateful for Mr. Arundel’s characteristic thoughtfulness in making this possible.”
Born in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 12, 1928, Mr. Arundel grew up there and in Mason City, Iowa. He graduated from Harvard in 1951, a friend and classmate of Robert F. Kennedy, and served as a Marine Corps paratroop officer in Korea, where he was wounded, earning the Purple Heart.
In 1954, Mr. Arundel parachuted behind the lines into Hanoi, leading a clandestine team to successfully destroy key installations there before Ho Chi Minh took over the city after the French loss at Dien Bien Phu. That would not be his last mission in southeast Asia.
Mr. Arundel left the Marine Corps in 1955 with the rank of captain, but returned to serve his country as a paramilitary officer attached to the CIA in Vietnam. He was wounded there as well, earning a second Purple Heart.
Mr. Arundel was fond of telling the story of convincing Edward R. Murrow that he had the skills and drive necessary to become a reporter. Murrow was apparently swayed by the young former Marine and sent Mr. Arundel to work as a Defense Department correspondent in the Washington bureau of CBS News. Mr. Arundel later joined United Press International, also covering the Defense Department.
After a stint as a special assistant to the Secretary of Commerce, and with a bank loan of $75,000 and the courage of his convictions, Mr. Arundel purchased D.C.-area radio station WARL, a country music station, changing the name to WAVA. Arundel and his staff began reading wire service stories on the air when the popular morning announcer was killed in a car crash on his way to work.
WAVA became, “the first all-news station in the world,” Mr. Arundel said. “It’s very pleasing to see that being carried on today … in television.”
Over the ensuing years, Mr. Arundel built Arundel Comunications (ArCom, now Times Community Media), adding radio, television and, with the 1963 purchase of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, newspapers.
“I fell in love with print journalism and left broadcasting,” Mr. Arundel said. “I sold out of it. The money was in broadcasting, but the joy was in print. I was never in print journalism till I bought my first newspaper and walked in the door, sight unseen.”
Mr. Arundel bought what was then called the Fauquier Democrat in 1974. At the pinnacle of his career as a newspaper publisher, ArCom operated 17 weekly community newspapers in Fauquier, Culpeper, Prince William, Clarke, Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
Politically active, Mr. Arundel was on a first-name basis with virtually every prominent Virginia politician and many others who walk the national stage.
While still at Harvard, he served in an internship with then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson on Capitol Hill. He also ran the Virginia presidential campaign for Harvard classmate Robert F. Kennedy and threw his own hat into the ring for election to the Virginia Senate in the early ‘70s as a Democrat.
Pragmatic and more concerned about leadership than party labels, Mr. Arundel endorsed a variety of candidates for public office on the editorial pages of his newspapers, including, most recently, Republican John McCain for president in 2008.
“In the first part of your life, you learn,” Mr. Arundel said of the development of Great Meadow, which he donated to the nonprofit Great Meadow Foundation. “In the second, you earn, and in the third, you give it all back.”
He remained in active pursuit of the last-named goal until the end of his life.
Recent projects included the establishment of Morningside Training Farm, a 120-acre equestrian center at the very foot of the Merry Oak driveway. There, Mr. Arundel was building a training facility for every facet of equestrian sport.
He also was actively engaged in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, which he founded and for which he served as chairman.
Mr. Arundel was a founder and president of Friends of the National Zoo; the first chairman of George Mason College (now George Mason University); a founder and president of Piedmont Environmental Council; founder of the U.S. Marine Corps Heritage Center in Quantico; co-founder of the National Press Foundation; co-founder of the Washington Journalism Center; co-founder and past president of the African Wildlife Foundation; and a member of the Board of Visitors of Harvard’s Kennedy Center of Government, Duke University’s Public Affairs Institute, the Monticello Founders Board, the Virginia Higher Education Business Council, National Sporting Library, National Military History Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, George Washington University, Waterford Foundation, Fresh Air/Full Call Campaign, the Virginia Racing Commission, and the Americans at War Foundation. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Virginia Communications in 2001.
Mr. Arundel was married for 53 years to his wife Peggy, nee Margaret C. McElroy, of Philadelphia, who survives him.
The couple had five children, all of whom also survive – Mrs. Donald DeWees, of Wilmington, DE.; Peter W. Arundel, of McLean; Wendy Arundel, of Sherborn, MA; John Arundel, of Alexandria; Thomas B. Arundel, of Washington, DC; and 11 grandchildren.
Peter Arundel is president and chairman of the board of Times Community Media, the parent company of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, as well as the Fauquier Times-Democrat, the Culpeper Times and the Gainesville Times.
The Times-Mirror filmed a video interview with Mr. Arundel last fall. Go to loudountimes.com, and click on Video, then click on The Virginians and scroll down to the interview.
Information on memorial services was not available at press time.