Headlines of Yore

40 years ago, a legendary Philly columnist helped defuse a prison hostage situation

The Graterford crisis was one of many negotiated by well-trusted Chuck Stone, who spent two decades at the Daily News.

Chuck Stone (center) speaks with the media after a hostage situation ended at SCI Graterford in 1981

Chuck Stone (center) speaks with the media after a hostage situation ended at SCI Graterford in 1981

AP Photo
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Trained as a Tuskegee Airman, Charles “Chuck” Stone Jr. was one of Philly’s preeminent newspaper columnists in the 1970s and ’80s.

Stone helped found and was the first president of the National Association of Black Journalists. At home, he was a staple at the Philadelphia Daily News, where he wrote more than 4,000 columns over two decades.

The columns spanned many topics, but Stone didn’t shy from controversy. He was a fierce critic of former mayors Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode, as well as the state prison system. He was commonly called on to act as a go-between, carrying messages from law enforcement to those behind bars. A remembrance of him after he died in 2014 noted it wouldn’t be hype to call him “the most trusted man in the City of Brotherly Love.”

That trust would come into play during what may have been his most famous act: defusing the 1981 hostage crisis at SCI Graterford, a now-closed state prison that was known for housing people convicted of violent crimes.

Stone’s negotiating was widely credited with bringing the 5-day standoff to a peaceful end. This “Headlines of Yore” thread details how it all went down.

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