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Gordon Aadland correspondence with Al Neuharth

Identifier: MS-003

Content Description

This collection of letters documents the long-term friendship of two newspaper journalists who met while students at the University of South Dakota. Topics covered in the correspondence include their personal life, careers, retirement activities, meetings, events and programs they attended or were involved in, associates and individuals they knew, and ideas for and discussion about columns written by Al Neuharth.


  • Creation: 1973 - 2013


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research without restrictions. Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting. Advance notice may be needed to retrieve items for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Gordon Rey Aadland was born on September 22nd, 1921 in Sisseton, SD, the sixth and youngest child of Olaf and Frances Aadland. In high school he played on the varsity baseball, basketball and tennis teams. In 1940, he moved to Los Angeles to join his family. During World War II, Aadland served in the U.S. Army from 1942-1945 in Cold Bay, Alaska, and on the island of Attu in the Quartermasters Corps, achieving a rank of buck sergeant. After returning from overseas, he served in the Los Angeles Military Police.

Using the GI Bill to attend the University of South Dakota, he graduated in 1949 with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Aadland taught high school English in Madison, SD, 1949-55, where he also met and married Carolyn Lavonne McGarvie. The Aadlands had two children, Carrie Aadland and adopted son Dennis Waller. From 1955-57 he taught high school English in Rainier, OR. Moving on to Centralia, WA, he taught English and Journalism at the high school from 1957-61. Aadland went on to teach at Centralia College from 1961-85, and also served as public information office.

Aadland started his journalism career writing columns for his high school paper, then went on to become the humor columnist for the University of South Dakota’s student paper The Volante. After college, Aadland wrote as humor columnist for SoDak Sports. Aadland proceeded to write and had columns published in church newsletters, The Miami Herald, and The Tacoma News Tribune. Finally, he wrote a weekly column for The Chronicle (Lewis County, WA) for 12 years, up to the time of his death.

As an USD alumnus, Aadland often participated in events, and is credited with a number of awards and programs that include; Alumni Achievement Award, member of the Neuharth Program for Excellence in Journalism Advisory Board, and generated the idea for the Native Americans in Journalism Program.

At Centralia College, Aadland is noted for; Sports Hall of Fame, bringing the NewsCapade to Centralia College, instrumental in establishing the Distinguished Alumnus award, was a graduation speaker, originator of the promenade across campus during its graduation ceremonies, had the Aadland Esplanade named for him, received the first Distinguished Lifetime Service Award, and was behind the creation of a statue honoring Katherine Kemp and Margaret Corbet.

Allen Harold Neuharth was born March 22, 1924 in Eureka, SD to parents Daniel J and Christina. He had one older brother Walter. Daniel died when Allen was two from a farming accident on the family farm in Alpena, South Dakota. Helping support his family, Neuharth worked on his grandfather’s farm, delivered Minneapolis Tribune newspapers, and was employed in the meat industry. Neuharth graduated from Alpena High School, and during his time there was editor of the school paper.

After high school he worked for the Alpena Journal and went to college on a scholarship, but World War Two intervened. Neuharth served in the US Army 86th Infantry Division in France, Germany, and the Philippines, and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for valor.

After leaving the service Neuharth attended the University of South Dakota on the GI Bill. During this time he was editor of the student newspaper The Volante and worked summers for local newspapers. After graduating in 1950 he worked for a short period with the Associated Press in Pierre. Neuharth and fellow USD graduate Bill Porter founded the popular statewide weekly sports newspaper SoDak Sports. Dedicated to covering statewide sports in a new way, the paper ran from 1952 until 1954. Described as a hit with readers, but not with advertisers, the paper struggled financially.

Neuharth left the state to take a job with the Miami Herald where he held positions including reporter, copy editor, Latin American correspondent, member of the Washington Bureau and assistant managing editor. In 1960 he transferred to the Detroit Free Press, a newspaper also owned by parent company Knight Newspapers, as assistant executive editor.

In 1963 Neuharth took a position as a general manager with the Gannett Company and went on to advance to president of new newspaper Florida Today. Neuharth continued to rise from executive vice-president, president and chief operating officer, in 1970, chief executive office in 1973 and chairman in 1979. Neuharth participated in the rapid company expansion and purchase of numerous other newspapers. He also founded USA Today in 1982, and after a number of years running in the red, it went on to become one of the nation’s most widely read and bestselling newspapers. To promote USA today Neuharth went on a number of tours. BusCapade in 1987 covered 50 states in six months. The 1988 JetCapade visited 32 counties in seven months.

Retiring from Gannett March 31, 1989 at 65, he had taken Gannett from an annual revenue of $62 million to over $3 billion, and ownership of 85 newspapers and 26 broadcast stations. Neuharth continued to author a weekly column in USA Today entitled Plain Talk through August 2010.

From 1986 until his death Neuharth participated in the Gannett Foundation, later named the Freedom Forum, a foundation working to protect free press and free speech. In 1997 the Newseum was open as a museum dedicate to news and journalism, moving to Washington, DC in 2008. Neuharth worked as chairman from 1986 to 1987, and remained a trustee of the foundation.

In his personal life, Neuharth’s first marriage was on June 16, 1946 to Loretta F. Helgeland. The couple had two children, Daniel J and Janet Ann, and eventually divorced in 1973. Neuharth married second wife, Florida State Senator Lori Wilson, in 1973. They were later divorced in 1982. Finally, he remarried for a third time in 1993, to Rachel Fornes, a Cocoa Beach chiropractor. They adopted six children Alexis, Karina, Andre, Ariana, Rafaelina, Aliandro. Neuharth also father an out-of-wedlock daughter, Rosamunda Neuharth-Ozgo, but never acknowledged her.

Neuharth continued his involvement with the University of South Dakota until his death. In 2003 the Freedom Forum lead the donations for the renovations to the New Armory building and it was renamed the Al Neuharth Media Center. Neuharth maintained an office in the building until his death. Neuharth died on April 19, 2013 at his home in Cocoa Beach, FL at the age of 89.

The Aadland and Neuharth relationship was formed in the 1940s. When they left South Dakota they corresponded occasionally. In the early 1980s they reunited in Washington, DC, from then onwards they met two or three times a year and kept up their correspondence on a regular basis. Aadland described his relationship with Neuharth as primarily one of put-down humor, good-humored insults, and practical jokes.


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Gordon Aadland correspondence with Al Neuharth
Daniel Burniston
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Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository