ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — Longtime Alabama newspaper publisher H. Brandt Ayers, who made The Anniston Star a voice for progressive politics during the civil rights era, has died.

The Star reported that the executive known by the nickname “Brandy” died Sunday at the age of 85, according to his family. No cause of death was given.

Ayers assumed control of the family-owned paper in east Alabama in the mid-1960s and made it a progressive voice for racial integration in the South. He also served as a commentator on National Public Radio and was known for helping start the careers of writers including Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg.

“For all of my life, he was at the head of a good small newspaper, a good community newspaper and just a good newspaper of any size,” Bragg, a former Star reporter, told the paper. “And he put out a progressive newspaper at a time when it would have been easier to pander.”

Ayers resigned as chairman of the paper’s parent company, Consolidated Publishing, in 2018 after admitting he had spanked a female reporter in the 1970s. Another former reporter made similar allegations against him.

Ayers is survived by his wife Josephine Ayers, who remains chair and publisher of the Star, and a daughter. The family’s statement said a memorial service would be announced later.