Richard Warren Baron, former owner and publisher of the Dial Press and publisher of such celebrated authors as James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Frank Yerby, and Elizabeth Bowen, died of natural causes on May 9 at his home in Manhattan. He was 98.
A native New Yorker, Baron's family owned the Royal Paper Company. Looking to establish a career outside of the family business, after leaving the army following World War II, Baron bought a 50% stake in the Dial Press, an independent literary publisher founded in 1923 by Lincoln MacVeague. Under Baron’s leadership, The Dial Press published a long list of acclaimed titles by such celebrated authors as James Baldwin (Another Country), Norman Mailer (Armies of the Night), Thomas Berger (Little Big Man), and Frank Yerby (Foxes of Harrow).
By 1963 the Dial Press was jointly owned by Baron and Dell Publishing, which had acquired a 60% stake in the house, and novelist E.L. Doctorow was the editor-in-chief. By 1969 the house was wholly owned by Dell Publishing, which in turn was acquired by Penguin, and the Dial Press as eventually dissolved in 1985. The press was revived in 1993 under Knopf editor Carol Baron, Richard Baron’s wife of 45 years, who was then the head of Dell.
Baron retired in 1980. He is credited with a lifelong passion for social justice (he participated in the 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King). In addition, he has also been praised by authors and former colleagues for his support and vision as a publisher. The late Doctorow said of Baron, “If anyone was the perfect publisher for the 1960s, it was Richard Baron. He was totally fearless, and he backed us in every crazy thing we would do.”