I must emerge from my influenza-haze long enough to acknowledge the Thursday death of Gene Worrell, which I learned of this morning. I worked for his grandson, Zack, in the late 90s, and I’ve long admired the musical and filmmaking talents of his granddaughter, Shannon. It’s through them that I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Worrell on several occasions. He was the very model of the American dream—he was self-made man, amassing a $170M fortune through his business enterprises. At one point he owned dozens of newspapers, radio, and TV stations across the state; his son sold the Daily Progress to Media General in 1995, 25 years after his father bought it from its founding family. Mr. Worrell was also well-known for his charity, giving enormous sums of money to causes large and small throughout his life. The phrase “pillar of the community” doesn’t quite do him justice. I can attest that he was a kind man and a gentle soul.
He was 86 years old.
2 thoughts on “Thomas “Gene” Worrell Dies”
African American coworker told me he didn’t like how blacks were treated up there at Worrell’s place on Pantops. He told me this mid-1980’s. He was old-time Charlottesville, through and through, my coworker, that is. I also did a temp job up there for a funny little biz. they called a private investigation firm but it was really setting up lists to make phone calls in towns where they ran small newspapers. Nothing wrong with that, but it was a little odd up there somehow. The DP was an institution, of a sort.
I had previously written that Mr. Worrell sold the Progress to Media General. In fact, his son Tom Worrell purchased it in the 80s who, in turn, sold it to Media General. That’s been fixed.
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