Convocation is traditionally held in the Colbert Augustus “Pete” McKnight Lecture Hall. The venue, which has hosted a number of events since its opening, is named for the legendary Charlotte Observer news editor and staunch University advocate.
A Shelby native, McKnight spent his entire career in the newspaper industry. After completing an undergraduate degree at Davidson College, he joined the Charlotte News in 1939. In January 1943, he became managing editor of the San Juan World Journal; he would later become its editor and executive editor. From his base in Puerto Rico, he also served as a part-time Associated Press war correspondent.
McKnight returned to the Charlotte News in 1944 as news editor; he was named managing editor in 1947 and editor two years later. In 1954, he moved to Nashville to be the executive editor of the Southern Education Reporting Service. The next year, McKnight returned to Charlotte to become editor of the Charlotte Observer, a position he held until 1976.
Community service, the arts and education were concerns of McKnight. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Charlotte Community College System and later the board of Charlotte College. UNC Charlotte’s inclusion into the consolidated UNC system received McKnight’s support on the editorial pages of the Charlotte Observer. He once stated, “As a citizen and as an editor, I am convinced that you (the General Assembly) have a moral responsibility and an educational responsibility to the central and southern Piedmont area that can only be met by creating a fourth campus of the University here and offering an educational program of university scope and excellence.”
The C.A. “Pete” McKnight Lecture Hall was dedicated April 5, 1976. In accepting the honor, McKnight said, “I share it with the many reporters and editors who have kept the community informed about your doings and supported you in your aspirations.”
McKnight, who eventually became associate publisher of the Charlotte Observer, retired in 1981. He died in August 1986.
Atkins Library Special Collections contributed to this article.