The Legacy of R.C. Hoiles

The Legacy of R.C. Hoiles
by Wendy McElroy

Raymond Cyrus (R.C.) Hoiles (1878-1970) was an American archetype who embodied the American dream: he was a rugged individualist who rose through hard work from unassuming circumstances to achieve immense success. Professionally, R.C. left behind Freedom Newspapers, Inc., a family-owned corporation that consisted of 16 daily newspapers, headed by the influential Orange County Register. Personally, as a devoted family man, he inspired 3 generations of Hoiles to embrace and expand a media dynasty which remained remarkably true to R.C.'s vision. He believed passionately in individual freedom and dignity.

But the foregoing does not adequately capture his legacy. Doing so requires a glimpse behind the public face of this extraordinarily modest man. D. Robert Seagal, a President of Freedom Newspapers once observed, "While the Hearsts, Scripps, Knights, Gannetts, and others named their newspaper groups after themselves, R.C. Hoiles named his business Freedom Newspapers." A similar modesty prevented R.C. from issuing his voluminous writing in book form, leaving them buried instead within newsprint.

The private R.C. was a quietly generous man who became the first sponsor of Services for the Blind, Inc. in Orange County. Register columnist Paul W. Travis recounted how he used to hand-deliver cash to a pastor and others in need because R.C. wanted no publicity. Those who worked with him developed a loyalty that bordered on devotion. A comment by the writer Thaddeus Ashby might explain why. "He's the kindest man I ever met....because he respects men as individuals. You feel he wants to find the best that's in you and drag it out of you where you both can stand and admire it. He looks for the truth in a man."


Born into a happy middle-class family in Alliance, Ohio, no one could have predicted the dynamo R.C. would become; there was no indication he would create and steer one of the 20th century's most powerful vehicles for freedom.

Educated in a little red schoolhouse across from his family's farm, R.C. went on to receive a college degree in engineering. But another vocation tugged. He had been working as a printer's devil for his brother Frank's newspaper. Soon the brothers co-owned several Ohio newspapers, and the personality traits that would define the later R.C. began to emerge.

His lifelong opposition to government intervention started by watching events in his own community unfold. R.C. applied a single standard to them; if an act was improper for one individual to commit then it was improper for a collection of individuals or anyone else; theft was theft, force was force and it could not be redefined by the application math or an allegation of privilege. Applying this single standard led R.C. to oppose both labor unions and businessmen who aligned with government. He did so with characteristic vigor and often at the same time.

In an editorial entitled "Whom Will A Worker Obey?" R.C. explained the harm that legally-backed unions would inflict upon working people. He wrote, "Collective bargaining advocates delude the poor, honest working man...with the idea that giving them the right to regulate his life – tell him at what he must work, for what price and how long – they will greatly add to his comfort of life." No one had the right to dictate the terms of labor for another person.

On the other hand, no businessman had a right to command privilege. One of the Hoiles Ohio newspapers exposed the fraudulent awarding of a paving contract to a Cleveland company despite the presence of a lower competing bid; public pressure resulted in the lower bid being accepted. The thwarted businessman launched a campaign to ruin R.C.

In the period that followed, another of R.C.'s signature characteristics emerged: utter stubbornness when he was acting from conviction. R.C. amicably severed business connections with Frank over the latter's objection to running anti-union columns. Then, whether from organized labor or the crusading businessman, he was confronted by physical violence. In November 1928, the front porch of his family home was destroyed by an explosion; his car was wired with dynamite that failed to explode. In response, R.C. purchased a bullet-proof automobile and hired an armed guard to accompany him.

In 1932, Hoiles sold the Ohio papers. In a June 4, 1986 letter, R.C.'s son Harry suggested the sale was because the papers had ceased to be sufficiently profitable.


R.C. spent the next three years poring through the books that created a libertarian fire within him. His philosophy became an explicit, integrated whole.

In 1935, when R.C. bought the California newspaper Santa Ana Register (now the Orange County Register), he imported the freedom philosophy that he held without waiver until his death in 1970. The philosophy was deceptively simple. It was based on three principles that R.C. called the "Three Guides to Morality": the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the Declaration of Independence. These guides mandated that liberty and dignity that were the birthright of every human being.

I call R.C.'s philosophy "deceptively simple" because, in consistently applying principles to complex issues, he often went against the common political wisdom of his day. A case in point is the internment of Japanese-Americans (including Nisei, the 2nd generation American-born) into camps during WWII. Hoiles called the imprisonment "unconstitutional." He was virtually alone in arguing that "convicting people of disloyalty to our country without having specific evidence against them is too foreign to our way of life and too close akin to the kind of government we are fighting." He also fought for restoration of the internees' property upon their release. To this day, members of the Japanese-American community place flowers on his grave.

R.C. once said, "Nobody cares about Hoiles; everybody cares about freedom." He was only half-correct. R.C. Hoiles' true legacy must prominently include the love and loyalty he inspired in family, friends and in the 'friendless' whom he fearlessly championed. To care about freedom is to care about Hoiles.

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