Our Town: On Duty: AC Snow

“I record the pulse of humanity, the dramas, large and small.”

–A.C. Snow, former editor of The Raleigh Times

by Katherine Snow Smith

photographs by Madeline Gray

When A.C. Snow came to town in 1957, Raleigh had 60,000 residents, no one-way streets, and downtown closed up shop at 5 p.m. His beat was city hall, which included a council member named Jesse Helms who was on the rise as a controversial political figure.

Snow wrote for The Raleigh Times, the afternoon paper, which was housed in the same building and owned by the same family as The News & Observer. It was the underdog, and he liked that. “Early on I did a little human interest story on a kid from out of town visiting the capital with his school who had hidden a pigeon he took from Capitol Square under his jacket,” Snow recalled recently. “The bus driver was well out of town when the bird was discovered and he turned back to return it.”

An editor or two noticed Snow’s flair for words and how well he connected with his subjects and his readers. He saw beyond the story and emotions that lay on the surface. They offered him a human interest column with a sketch of the cub reporter smoking a cigarette at a manual typewriter.

Cigarettes and Royal typewriters are long extinct in newsrooms, and Raleigh’s population today hovers around 458,000. The last edition of The Raleigh Times rolled off the presses on McDowell Street in 1989. Snow, who was by then the paper’s longtime editor, wrote the headline: That’s All Folks.

His weekly column moved to The News & Observer, and still runs every Sunday, sixty years after it started in Raleigh. Readers from 19 to 90 call, email, and write every week to commiserate about squirrels, chastise him for pulling for Carolina and Democrats, document a bluebird sighting, or share a memory of picking apples with their father that his words ignited. “A columnist has the best job in journalism. Readers are, in a sense, my extended family.”

Katherine Snow Smith is A.C. Snow’s daughter. She is a journalist at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Florida.