Former Banner owner Stevens dies at 100

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
Honoring former Daily Banner publisher Herman Stevens in 2015 were: front row, from left: Jim Thomas and Kay Stevens Thomas, Herman’s son-in-law and daughter; Janice Foxwell, a former employee; Herman Stevens; Sylvia Windsor; Comptroller Peter Franchot; State Senator Addie Eckardt; and Register of Wills Doris Lewis. Back row: Bonnie and Ray Stevens, Herman’s daughter-in-law and son; Sheriff Jim Phillips and City Commissioner Gage Thomas.

CAMBRIDGE — A giant of local leadership, both in journalism and community causes, has passed away.
Herman J. Stevens, 100, died Oct. 29 at his home.
He was born May 30, 1920 in Cambridge, son of the late Herman Stevens and Edna Jackson Stevens. His wife, Nettie Belle James Stevens predeceased him in 2018.

Mr. Stevens worked for many years at The Daily Banner, where he was first advertising manager, later becoming publisher and part owner. He retired from the newspaper in 1983.
Mr. Stevens accepted the congratulations and best wishes of his many friends on his 100th birthday. Though he had been retired for many years, memories of his contributions to life in Dorchester were still strong among the members of his grateful community.

Herman Stevens was the son of Herman Ray and Edna Jackson Stevens and younger brother of Donald. Raised in the Mount Holly area, he attended the local schools. He graduated from Cambridge High School.
While attending a ball game at The Phillips Packing Company stadium (about where the Western Publishing building now stands) he saw one of the players and was captivated. Through a mutual friend a meeting was arranged.
He married Nettie Belle James on Aug. 2, 1941. The love of his life, they were married almost 77 years when she passed away on July 19, 2018.

In 1942 they became parents of a son, Ray and followed that two years later with the birth of a daughter, Kaye.
During World War II, he served with the U.S. Coast Guard. After returning home, he took a variety of jobs, including one which had him manage both the Arcade and State Theaters on Race Street.
New career
On a trip to carry advertising for the theaters to the local newspaper, The Daily Banner, he met and impressed the relatively new owner, Arnold Daane. He impressed him so that Mr. Daane offered him the job of general manager. Did he know anything about newspapers? Not really, but he was a quick study.

Ink in his blood
Getting printer’s ink in his blood was not hard as he was trained by some of the best including Maurice Rimpo, editor; Elsie McNamara, managing editor and Leila B. Smith, social editor. It wasn’t long before he had the hang of things and the paper began to show progress.
After a few years, Mr. Daane passed away and in his will he left half of the newspaper to his widow, Fannie Greene Daane and the other half to be sold. This was Herman’s chance to be a real newspaperman as he bought the other half.
Mrs. Daane wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operation and Herman ran the newspaper. Around 1970 he decided to take the newspaper into the 20th Century changing from the “hot metal” system to offset printing.
This was a big change, but no one would lose their jobs, they would be retrained to do something else. Jobs were added to make this process work.
As if this were not enough to keep him busy, the Cambridge area needed industry and jobs for people, so Herman and three of his friends took on the task. With the blessing of the city fathers, but not their money, the four financed their trips to seek companies to locate in Cambridge. The Four Horsemen as they were named included Mr. Stevens, Don Holdt, founder of Airpax and later Cambridge Scientific; Bob Davis, owner of Stevens & Smith Clothiers and big game hunter Phil Williamson, owner of the Point Restaurant and Williamson Real Estate.

Through their efforts the industrial park on Woods Road became a reality with Western Publishing, American Yearbook, Icelandic, Connelly Containers, Chris Craft Boat Builders, Lif-o-Gen and Bumble Bee Tuna. Bumble Bee needed more space, so Herman founded Cargo Handlers and a building was erected by the deep water port (now Governors Hall).

Over the course of 13 years of hard work, the “Four Horsemen” succeeded in luring 18 new industries to the area.
Eventually, Mrs. Daane and Mr. Stevens decided to sell The Banner. It was purchased by the Evening Post Publishing Company of South Carolina. Finally, the Banner was bought by Independent Newspapers which still owns it to this day.
Community involvement
During his association with the Banner, Mr. Stevens was heavily involved in the Chamber of Commerce and sat on the boards of the Salvation Army and Nathan Foundation in addition to serving on committees at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
Once a newspaperman always a newspaperman, so after leaving the Banner, Herman and Don Holdt started a newspaper in the Stevensville area which was growing rapidly. After a few years it folded. Still not ready to retire Herman entered the real estate game as an agent.
If being involved in many projects wasn’t enough Herman wanted to go higher so he took flying lessons and in 1974 obtained his pilot’s license. He purchased a four-seater plane and flew until 2002 at the age of 88 when he finally landed and decided it was time to enjoy retirement and his family.

Mr. Stevens’ decades of contributions to his home county were recognized on Dec. 16, 2015, when Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot presented him with a lifetime achievement award. The presentation was a surprise to Mr. Stevens, who was brought to a local bakery by his family for the event.

In presenting the award to Mr. Stevens, Mr. Franchot said, “This in recognition of your lifetime achievements and unparalleled business, civic and charitable accomplishments for more than seven decades, and your dedication to serving the area’s communications needs through your ownership of The Daily Banner and radio station WAAI in Hurlock.”
Mr. Franchot also stated that Herman Stevens’ work was a “career marked by generosity of spirit,” and delivered the proclamation to Mr. Stevens, “With my special appreciation for your commitment to serving your fellow citizens and improving the community.”
Comptroller Franchot also presented Mr. Stevens with one of his brand new Maryland Hero Medallions, presented for service, valor and sacrifice, for Mr. Stevens’ service in the Coast Guard.

“I was brought here by my family telling me I was coming to hear a speech,” said Mr. Stevens after the presentation. “I didn’t know it was going to be on my behalf!
“I am totally surprised, I really am. I thought I was coming here for another presentation or some such. I’m very pleased. It’s nice to have people say good things about you — some of it undeserved, of course.” When asked if he missed The Banner, Mr. Stevens replied, “Very much so. If I was able, I’d go back tomorrow.”