Dean B. Livingston, veteran newspaperman and longtime publisher of The Times and Democrat, died Tuesday in Columbia. He was 81.
Friends and colleagues described Livingston, who retired as T&D publisher in 1999 after 37 years, as a “gentleman,” “leader,” “good American boy” — and an astute and seasoned newspaper mind.
“He realized the importance of a daily newspaper to the wellbeing of the community and took seriously the responsibility of providing objective information to its citizens,” said T&D Publisher Cathy Hughes, who came to the newspaper in the early 1970s. “He hired good people and empowered them to do their jobs.”
“Dean loved and believed in the Orangeburg community,” Hughes said. “He worked hard for this area during his years as publisher.”
Retired T&D press foreman Charlie Garrick was an employee who worked under Livingston for 30 years.
“I thought the world of Dean,” Garrick said. “He was a swell guy to work for.”
“I worked on the press a lot of nights and some nights the paper did not look good or maybe the color was off,” he said. “If you had one bad night, he would let you slide, but don’t have two days in a row.”
“He expected you to do a good job,” Garrick said.
Livingston’s leadership abilities were evident during the newspaper’s trying times, especially when The T&D burned in 1972. The paper never lost a day of production.
“The fact that the newspaper burned on a Sunday afternoon and we delivered a Monday morning newspaper to our subscribers with a photo showing the aerial view of the burning building on the front page says something about dedication and determination,” Hughes said. “Dean called a meeting of employees that Sunday evening, assuring us not only that we still had jobs, but that we were needed more than ever. He understood people.”
‘Gracious’ in helping
Hubert Osteen Jr., retired publisher of The Item in Sumter, said he knew Livingston since the 1960s when the two were serving in leadership positions with the South Carolina Press Association. Livingston was president of the SCPA in 1969.
“He was an outstanding newspaperman and a top-notch president of the Press Association,” Osteen said. “The most memorable time is when our paper was shut down by Hurricane Hugo (in 1989). We lost all power in Sumter and were not able to get a paper out.”
Osteen said The T&D and Livingston were “gracious” in providing the facilities to produce and print The Item — returning the favor to Sumter for help following the 1972 T&D fire.
“After we helped him in 1972, he gave my father a Rolex watch just to thank us for doing that,” Osteen recalled. “I have not forgotten that.” It epitomized Livingston’s character.
“He was a very compassionate person and a very thoughtful person,” Osteen said. “He was a very grand friend to have.”
The early years
Livingston’s love for newspapers began early.
He was 8 years old when he first began working for The T&D, riding his bicycle down Russell and Broughton streets delivering morning newspapers.
“From the first day I walked into the newspaper, I knew it was going to be my life,” he said during a 1998 interview before his April 1999 retirement. “I just loved every minute of it.”
At the age of 12, Livingston went to work for the weekly Orangeburg Observer as a production employee and columnist writing the newspaper’s “Teen Talk” column.
He took a break from newspapers during his time at Orangeburg High School while he played football.
Dr. Everette Salley, former Orangeburg city councilman, played football with Livingston in high school in the early 1950s. Livingston was a guard and linebacker while Salley was a tackle.
“He was a very good player,” Salley said. “He was probably one of the hardest-working players on the team. We did not win them all, but we won our share.”
Orangeburg resident Leonard Sanford was a friend of Livingston’s since high school.
“We palled around a little together,” he said. “He was just a good, straight American boy. He was a good football player and he would joke a little and laugh. I would say he was one of the most likable students in high school.”
Sanford said the two got together throughout their adult lives, sharing meals and good times.
“I will miss him just being around,” Sanford said. “I don’t know of anybody that could say anything against him.”
After graduation from the University of South Carolina, Livingston worked at The T&D in the news, advertising and circulation departments while waiting to report to active duty in the U.S. Air Force in February 1956 as a second lieutenant.
He served three years on active duty as a navigator, one year in navigation school and two years in the Military Air Transport Service. He logged more than 2,000 flight hours, primarily transporting cargo to and from Europe.
After his stint in the military, Livingston returned to The T&D — which was then a 7,000-circulation daily — as managing editor.
The newspaper offices were located on Russell Street.
In 1962, Livingston became publisher when J.L. Sims died. He was 29 at the time, becoming the youngest publisher in the state. He would lead the paper as publisher for nearly four decades.
“He was contemplative: ‘When it doubt, leave it out’ was a caution he instilled in eager news people, teaching them to consider before rushing to print,” Hughes said. “He instilled a true work ethic: There is no excuse not to ‘get the paper out.’ I recall him saying, ‘There are no days off in the newspaper business’ — how true!”
Livingston’s skills as a journalist during the height of racial tensions in the 1960s are also a part of his legacy.
He was on the scene at the “Orangeburg Massacre,” the incident in which three South Carolina State University students were shot and killed during protests surrounding segregation of an Orangeburg bowling alley.
Noted civil rights photographer Cecil Williams, who worked with Livingston over the years, recalls the incident.
“Dean was present near the campus when the Orangeburg Massacre occurred,” Williams said. “On several occasions, he shared his experiences with me in graphic detail. I think the incident, as tragic as it was, had a profound effect on him. I believe from that night forward launched his lifelong efforts to bring the black and white communities together. And in many ways, he did.”
Williams said Livingston’s journalistic career and legacy were “molded, sharpened, and focused by the diverse changes in racial change in the second half of the 20th century.”
“At the time of his leadership, so much was happening and happening so fast in America and the Deep South,” Williams said. “It was an exciting and unforgettable time. Orangeburg and South Carolina are better today because the pages of this newspaper molded public opinion in a positive manner.”
Williams also recalls Livingston’s special ability to capture news with a camera.
“Dean loved photography and was a superb photographic craftsman,” Williams said. “We both owned Hasselblad cameras and lenses. I remember many occasions where we swapped equipment — my fish-eye lens and his long telephoto for sports — back and forth to complete challenging photographic tasks. When photography moved to digital, we often exchanged knowledge and tips about the rapidly approaching technological transitions.”
Freedom of the press
Salley, who was elected to Orangeburg City Council in 1969, recalls Livingston’s desire to run for election.
“He expressed an interest to run for council and I told him he should not do that,” Salley said. “Newspaper reporters are constantly complaining they don’t get enough information.”
“When I was first elected, we could have an executive session just because we wanted to,” he said. “It bothered Dean a good bit. But I understand why it bothered him.”
Osteen said Livingston was instrumental in making sure the public and public bodies were aware of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
“He was a very active player in South Carolina newspaper history,” Osteen said. “He worked diligently on the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) to have it written the way it should be written.”
Osteen said the law is getting better, but he says there are still public bodies that want to do their own thing.
“Dean was on the forefront of this,” Osteen said. “He fought hard for First Amendment issues.”
Bill Rogers, South Carolina Press Association executive director, said Livingston was both a friend and adviser to him, as a well as a “gentleman, a leader and a good journalist.”
“He knew South Carolina history and politics and I called him regularly for his advice on dealing with legislative issues regarding the press and freedom of information,” Rogers said.
After his retirement, Livingston continued to write a column for The Times and Democrat and published the book “Yesteryears” in 2006, described as “a newsman’s look back at the events and people who have influenced the histories of Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.”
Among Livingston’s survivors are his wife of 59 years, Grace, daughter Donna and son Dean Jr.
Of his father, Dean Jr. said Tuesday, “His heart never left Orangeburg and the newspaper. He was so proud about Orangeburg that he wrote a book.”
He loved The Times and Democrat. “That was what the good Lord put him here to do.”
A memorial service for Livingston will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, May 23, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Orangeburg.
The family will receive friends afterward in Wannamaker Hall, adjacent to the sanctuary.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5551.