CHARLOTTESVILLE — Anne Rowell Worrell, a co-founder of the Worrell newspaper empire, died in Charlottesville on Thursday. She was 99.
Worrell was born in Surry and attended Virginia Intermont College. She worked for General Motors in Richmond and Washington, D.C., before marrying Eugene Worrell, according to her obituary.
The couple settled in Bristol, and after Gene Worrell lost a congressional election, they founded the Virginia Tennessean to offer a counterweight to the Herald Courier. He later bought the Herald Courier and combined the two into one newspaper, now known as the Bristol Herald Courier.
"Despite stunning obstacles, [Gene Worrell] was able to create a credible newspaper from scratch, acquire his rival and then go on to build a thriving newspaper chain that has been described as one of the most successful in United States history," wrote Edward Crews, who put together a book about Worrell Newspapers Inc.
The Worrells grew the company to be one of the largest chains of small dailies in the country, and controlled many Virginia publications until a sale to Media General. Anne Worrell had a regular column, “The View from Here,” for the Bristol newspapers from 1952 to 1976.
Their purchase of The Daily Progress in 1970 led to their move to Charlottesville, where she lived until her death. She and her husband acquired Pantops Farm, which now includes Peter Jefferson Place.
Anne Worrell served as honorary vice chairman of both the Virginia Historical Society and Preservation Virginia. She was instrumental in helping to acquire and restore Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, and served as lead board member in that project. She also served on the Governing Council at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, where she was awarded the Elizabeth Scott Award for Exemplary Leadership in 2011. Additionally, she was a member of First Families of Virginia, Christ Episcopal Church, the Contemporary Club of Albemarle and Farmington Country Club, according to her obituary.
"She was very gracious, very smart, and really cared about the Miller Center's nonpartisan approach," recalled Gene Fife, a fellow longtime member of the center's Governing Council. Worrell valued education and was committed to financially and socially supporting projects that taught fellow Americans about their history and rights, according to Fife.
"She made sure projects, especially the oral history projects, happened, and she was willing to put up some of the money necessary," he said.
The Worrell family also supported Wake Forest University, Gene Worrell's alma mater, and created the Genan Foundation to support historic preservation, affordable housing, education, arts, health care and the environment.
Anne Worrell is survived by her sister, Gray Henry; her son, Thomas Eugene Worrell Jr.; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; and a nephew and two nieces. She was preceded in death by her husband and her sister Jeanne.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Christ Episcopal Church. A private family service will be held prior to the memorial service. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her honor can be made to Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, 1542 Bateman Bridge Road, Forest, VA 24551; The Miller Center, 2201 Old Ivy Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903; or the Virginia Historical Society.