William Calhoun "Bill" Baggs was editor of The Miami News from 1957 until his death in 1969. Bill Baggs was one of a group of Southern editors who campaigned for civil rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Others in this group included Ralph McGill at The Atlanta Constitution, Hodding Carter at the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times and Harry Ashmore at the Arkansas Gazette. Baggs became an early opponent of the Vietnam War. In 1967 and 1968 Bill Baggs traveled to North Vietnam with Harry Ashmore on a private peace mission. While there, they interviewed Ho Chi Minh about what conditions would be necessary to end the war. Unknown at the time, Bill Baggs was also one of the journalists involved in the CIA's Operation Mockingbird particularly during the latter stages of The McCarthy Era which he opposed very firmly and convincingly as a reporter. He joined philosophically with both Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner of the C.I.A. at Operation Mockingbird in supporting and defending Cord Meyer when Senator McCarthy began to target the C.I.A., which he claimed harbored more than 100 closeted Communists which turned out to be a gross distortion of the facts. Bill Baggs was a very active anti-Communist himself, publishing numerous anti-Castro articles during the very early days of the Castro regime in Cuba beginning in 1959. Baggs cultivated numerous news sources from within the anti-Castro Soldier-of-Fortune community in South Florida including Gerry Patrick Hemming, Roy Hargraves, Eddie Collins and William Whatley as well as Alex Rorke and several others. He also worked with eventual Watergate burglars Frank Sturgis and Bernard Barker to develop news leads and sources about the South Florida anti-Castro exile community long before they were involved with Watergate.
Baggs also conferred with South Florida C.I.A. case officers like David Atlee Phillips and E. Howard Hunt on various topics related to the intrigue among South Florida anti-Castro Cuban exiles. One of his reporters, Hal Hendrix known as "the spook" at The Miami News, once broke the story about the alleged coup d'état against Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic, the day before it actually happened which was an obvious embarrassment for both the C.I.A., and The Miami News but especially for Hal Hendrix.
Baggs was a longtime supporter of liberal Democrats like Rep. Claude Pepper and Senator Dante Fascell and was instrumental in writing articles and editorials supporting legislation which helped the numerous retirees who were already dominating the population in the South Florida area and represented the core readership base of The Miami News. He was often a target of criticism launched by the right wing for his early efforts at advancing Civil Rights, for opposing the Vietnam War and for defending and promoting various social welfare programs for the elderly, the infirm and the disadvantaged in South Florida and throughout the nation.
Bill Baggs worked tirelessly on his very early pioneering conservation efforts to rescue the section of Key Biscayne from overdevelopment by real estate developers. That section was later named Bill Baggs State Park in his honor. And he also worked indefatigably on his lifelong resuscitation project The Miami News which was an afternoon newspaper that always trailed The Miami Herald, the dominant morning paper, in total circulation and advertising revenues during his tenure as Editor-In-Chief.
Bill Baggs died of a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 48 due at least partially to his devotion to the success of The Miami News on a 7-days a week basis throughout the year. He was often the first employee to arrive every morning before 5:30 A.M. and the last one to leave at night after 6:00 P.M. after the paper had been published and distributed to be available for rush hour traffic starting at 4:00 P.M. when the newsboys hawked the paper at traffic lights throughout South Florida. Bill Baggs was a genuine admirer of President John F. Kennedy and was noticeably saddened after his assassination. The fact that he personally knew several of those South Florida Soldiers of Fortune and C.I.A. case officers who later admitted playing a role in JFK's demise like Frank Sturgis, Gerald Patrick Hemming, Roy Hargraves and E. Howard Hunt would have caused him no small amount of consternation and pain. His close associates said that he was never the same after the death of his longtime friend and political hero.
Other articles related to "bill baggs":
... Bill Baggs, editor of The Miami News, started campaigning for all of the Cape Florida property to be preserved in a park ... In 1966 Bill Baggs brokered a deal between Elena Santeiro Garcia and the state of Florida, in which Florida bought the property for US$8.5 million, of which US$2 ... This land became Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which opened January 1, 1967 ...
... Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park occupies approximately the southern third of the island of Key Biscayne, at coordinates 25°40′25″N 80°09′34″W / 25.67361°N 80.15944°W / 25.67361 -80.15944 ... The park is named in honor of Bill Baggs, editor of The Miami News from 1957 until his death in 1969, who fought to prevent the development of the land ...
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