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Colbert Augustus "Pete" McKnight papers

Identifier: MS0132

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised primarily of material created and received by McKnight as editor of The Observer and as president and project director for the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The papers offer brief documentation of McKnight's service with The Charlotte News and none during his association with The San Juan World Journal. Personal material consists primarily of correspondence with family members. Little documentation exists of his civic and community service activities, as well as his involvement in civil rights.


  • 1917 - 1987
  • 1956 - 1981


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Colbert Augustus (Pete) McKnight was born in Shelby, N.C., on August 19, 1916 to John Samuel and Norva Proctor McKnight. While attending Davidson College, he began his career as a cub reporter with his hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Star. After graduation, McKnight joined The Charlotte News in 1939. During World War II, he became managing editor (and later, editor and executive editor) of the San Juan World Journal in Puerto Rico and served as an Associated Press war correspondent. McKnight rejoined The Charlotte News, first as news editor (1944-47), then as managing editor (1947-49) and as editor (1949-54). In 1954, he left to become director of the Southern Education Reporting Service in Nashville. McKnight returned to Charlotte to serve as editor (1955-76) and associate publisher (1976-78) of The Charlotte Observer. He received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award (1965). As a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, McKnight served as president (1971) and as project director (1977-81) for the Newspaper Readership Project. He also created and edited the Editors' Exchange, a newsletter for editors and publishers. McKnight retired in 1981. McKnight served on the board of trustees of Charlotte College (1960-65) and the UNC Charlotte Foundation (1974-82). He provided editorial support for the creation of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte and delivered a speech (1964) before a special committee of UNC trustees. [McKnight wrote many speeches that other people delivered on the college's behalf]. UNC Charlotte's McKnight Auditorium is named in his honor. Colby and Davidson colleges conferred honorary degrees upon him in 1977. In 1941, McKnight married Margaret Henderson. They had three children, John Peter, Margaret C., and David P. After his first marriage ended in divorce, McKnight married Gail Oliver Ehle in 1968. They had one child, Colby Augustus. McKnight died on August 16, 1986 in Charlotte. [For more biographical information, see Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill: UNC Press), vol. 4:163-64.]


5.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Papers of an editor of The Charlotte News (1949-54) and The Charlotte Observer (1955-76). Consists primarily of material relating to his service as editor of The Observer and as president and project director for the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Also includes material about his association with the Southern Education Reporting Service, family correspondence, speeches, and photographs.


The collection is arranged into the following seven series:

I. The Charlotte Observer, 1956-1979 II. The Charlotte News, 1939, 1960, 1972 III. American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1962-1981 IV. Southern Education Reporting Service, 1954-1975 V. Speeches, 1953-1979 VI. Personal, 1933-1981 VII. Clippings, 1941-1967, 1976, 1986-1987

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of C. A. McKnight, 1981-82.

Related Materials

Eugene Payne cartoons (MS 8) and Frank Barrows papers (MS 603)

Processing Information

Processed by Randy Penninger, 1987.

Colbert Augustus "Pete" McKnight papers
Randy Penninger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte 28223 United Stated

About this Site

Finding aids are guides to archival collections, including manuscripts, university records, and oral history collections. These guides help you find physical collections which can be viewed in the Dalton Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library. A small number of finding aids link to digital content online. Please contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment:

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