40 Years Ago in PGN: Jan. 15-21, 2016

Newspaper heir murdered

Adapted from reporting by Richard Rusinow

After the heir of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain was found murdered Dec. 7, 1975, Philadelphia police rounded up nearly 60 gay men to question them in connection with the killing.


Police told the press they believed the victim, John S. Knight III, was gay because of photographs of nude men found in Knight’s apartment and information contained in Knight’s diary.

Knight was a Philadelphia Daily News editor at the time of his death. His family’s company owned that paper and the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Media outlets not owned by the Knight-Ridder chain sensationalized the murder with headlines like “Gay world searched for heir’s killers” and “Kinky aspects of slaying vexes papers.” 

“The media killed [Knight] for being homosexual,” said John Wiles of the Gay Media Project in Philadelphia. “Everything else about Knight became irrelevant once they discovered his homosexuality.”

Wiles said there was no mention that the murder suspects could be straight people. Police eventually found responsible three straight men, described as “hustlers” in the city: Isais “Felix” Melendez, Steven Maleno and Salvatore Soli.

Gay nominations in works for governor’s commission

Adapted from reporting by PGN staff

The screening committee for the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities was contacting public figures throughout the state seeking nominations for members from the general public.

The Commission on Sexual Minorities, formed during an October 1975 meeting of the State Gay Conference in Harrisburg, was set to consist of five gay representatives from Philadelphia, four from Pittsburgh and six from rural areas around the state. Five additional members were mandated to come from the general public, and did not need to be gay. 

Once the steering committee finalized the nominations for public members, the full list was to be sent to Gov. Martin J. Shapp for his approval in January 1976. 

“The governor will probably be guided by our recommendations for the gay representatives, at least, although he may want to make changes in the general public nominations,” said Harry Langhorne, member of the steering committee and PGN political reporter.

— compiled by Paige Cooperstein