Bony Hampton Peace was communications giant

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2015

One man, whose name is synonymous with the growth of the communications industry in America, is Bony Hampton Peace. He was born in the Dark Corner (Tigerville area) on Aug. 16, 1873 to Jackson Patrick and Judith Ballenger Tinsley Peace.

He attended both public school and was a student at the Gowensville Seminary, conducted by the Rev. Thomas J. Earle in Gowensville.

He left the Dark Corner and moved to Spartanburg at the age of 13 to serve an apprenticeship in the Carolina Spartan Print Shop. A conscientious worker and a quick learner, he impressed his employer and assumed more and more responsibility.

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At the age of 21, he married Laura Estelle Chandler on Nov. 28, 1894, and started a family of nine children, six of whom survived infancy. He would later become the foreman of the composing room at the Spartanburg Journal, holding that position until the family moved to Greenville.

In 1910, at the age of 37, he founded his own printing business, which grew to be the largest in this section of the country. He knew well all the aspects of good printing production and how to please customers.

A leading Greenville industrialist, Captain Ellison Adger Smyth, held the controlling stock of the Greenville News, and, since the newspaper was operating at a loss, Captain Smyth prevailed upon Bony Hampton Peace to serve part time as its business manager.

Peace finally agreed to do so. Within two months, his acumen as a production expert allowed the newspaper to operate “in the black.”

Peace managed the newspaper for three years, then, at the urging of his two sons, Roger C. Peace and Charlie Peace, purchased it and became its publisher in 1917.

Roger C. and Charlie both worked at the News while attending college, Roger C. as a reporter and Charlie in the operations side of the newspaper. After college, Roger C. worked his way up from sports editor, to business manager and eventually to publisher. Charlie advanced to finally become operations manager.

By 1927, the family-owned Greenville News Company bought the Piedmont Publishing Company, publishers of Greenville’s afternoon newspaper, the Greenville Piedmont, and began the purchase of other newspapers in a publishing chain.

Plans were made to start Greenville’s first radio station. The family’s broadcasting company was formed and WFBC-AM signed onto the air on May 3, 1933.

Bony Hampton Peace was an outstanding leader and advocate of civic progress, in addition to being a stellar publisher and pioneer in communications. He served the community, state and region for more than three decades.

He was one of the original directors of the Poinsett Hotel, which gained worldwide fame, and served on the board of a number of banks that were instrumental in the development of Greenville and the surrounding area.

He was a member of Sigma Delta Chi journalism fraternity, served as president of the South Carolina Press Association and as a director of the Southern Newspaper Association. As a Hall of Fame member of the South Carolina Press Association, the regular activities of the School of Journalism at the University of South Carolina were suspended on the day of his funeral in June, 1934, to honor him.

The leadership skills and advocacy of progress, which he demonstrated and taught to his sons and daughters, resulted in the eventual formation of one of the world’s foremost multi-national communications corporations.

WFBC-FM went on the air on May 12, 1947, and WFBC-TV brought television to a waiting audience in Greenville in 1953. Other stations in Asheville and surrounding states were purchased and operated.

In 1968, the family merged its growing newspaper chain and broadcast company into Multimedia, with international headquarters in Greenville. The multi-national corporation operated successfully for almost three decades, and was sold, in 1995, to Gannett Company, best known for publishing USA Today, for $1.7 billion.

From humble beginnings on SC Highway 253 near Lindsey Bridge Road in Dark Corner, Bony Hampton Peace made an indelible mark on the entire world of communications.