Obituary for Forrest M. "Frosty" Landon

Read the obituary on Oakey's Funeral Home page

photo: Frosty Landon at the 10th anniversary gala in 2006, which established VCOG's endowment, allowing it to hire a full-time executive director after Landon's retirement. Pictured with him are VCOG's current director, Megan Rhyne, who worked for Frosty from 1998 until taking over VCOG in 2008, and Rhyne's husband, Mike Parker.

Forrest “Frosty” Landon, a journalism institution in the Roanoke Valley and far beyond, died July 19 of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. He was 87.

He leaves behind his devoted family: wife Barbara, daughter Tracy Landon (Ed Smith), son Jeffrey Landon (Mary Fisher Landon), grandchildren Maggie Landon, Emma Landon, and Mason Landon Smith. 

Also mourning his passing is a host of friends and extended family members who thought he walked on water—or at least his swimming pool, around which he frequently held court. Frosty loved reading every newspaper he could get his hands on, dispensing advice (but usually only when asked) and rescuing dogs. He volunteered avidly, all the while maintaining his affable, if somewhat cantankerous, demeanor. His grandkids playfully called him Grumps.

A native of Sidney, N.Y., Frosty was the third son of Eleanor and Dewitt Landon and the youngest brother of Dewitt and Bill Landon, who predeceased him. He was ten when he committed his first act of journalism, hand-cranking a newspaper he wrote, delivered, and sold ads for, called The Sidney Flash. 

That energy and curiosity fueled his career. But it was his quest for fairness and truth that would impact thousands of Virginia readers and generations of young journalists passing through Roanoke. To Frosty, newspapers were the civic glue.  

Barbara and Frosty landed in Roanoke in 1955, when Frosty started work as a reporter for WDBJ television station the day it went on the air (it was then owned locally by the Times-World Corp.). With his robust, Cronkite-like delivery, he covered the visit of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy on a 1960 visit to Roanoke. When Floyd County High School integrated a few years later, school officials wouldn’t allow reporters to interview black students, but Frosty trailed the school bus and interviewed a black student in her home. 
He moved over to the Roanoke Times to become an editorial writer and editor, and his forceful opinions sometimes got him into trouble, including the time he wrote a highly critical assessment of former Gov. Thomas B. Stanley’s tenure, in particular Stanley’s championing of “massive resistance” to public-school integration—that ran on the day of Stanley’s funeral. The editorial drew the ire of both Byrd-machine Democrats and the newspaper’s publisher, thus beginning what Frosty referred to as his demotion to head of the Xerox machine. 

He worked his way back up to management on the newspaper’s news side, eventually becoming executive editor. He also hosted a popular public affairs show called “Nightline” on WBRA that showcased his fondness for debate. The newspaper won many national awards during Frosty’s tenure , including Pulitzer Prize finalist honors three times and multiple Virginia Press Association awards for public service and integrity. He was equally proud of having championed the Minority Journalism Workshop, which helped launch the careers of several well-known journalists from Roanoke. He was past president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, whose members included FOI groups in 40 states. He was the American Society of Newspaper Editors FOI chairman in 1995-96.

When he retired in 1995, Frosty helped found the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, an organization devoted to improving the public’s access to state and local meetings. He worked tirelessly to establish its statewide office and to secure its funding, joking that he was the state’s only lobbyist who slept in a spare bunkbed in his granddaughter’s Richmond bedroom. He traveled constantly, zipping around the state in one of his sports cars (license plate: OPEN GOV) and establishing a second home on his beloved Rappahannock River near White Stone, which he shared generously with friends and relatives. 

A totally self-made man, Frosty contributed to Hartwick College near his upstate New York home, which had helped him attend college when his single mother couldn’t afford to send him away. He graduated from the University of Missouri’s journalism school and would go on to contribute to his alma maters, Mill Mountain Theatre, and Apple Ridge Farm. His many honors include his induction into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, a George Mason Award to honor journalism excellence, and a Perry F. Kendig Award for Outstanding Support of the Arts.

If you were lucky, you have seen (and avoided) him as he sped through town in his convertible, usually while shaving and talking on the phone and scrawling a reminder to himself or someone else. An early adopter of technology, Frosty loved a robust merlot, oysters, near-death scuba-diving adventures, and a good story, which he would abbreviate to “good sty” on the many Post-It Notes he left on reporters’ desks. Most of all, he loved his family.

A celebration of life will be held in late September.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the United Way ( or to the VIrginia Coalition for Open Government ( ) in his honor.