Notable People

Herman Vail - President of The Plain Dealer

9448 Lake Shore Boulevard
Delia & Herman Vail 1951
Delia & Herman Vail 1951

Herman Vail was a lawyer and newspaper publisher who combined a balance of talents and contributions to law, politics, business, cultural, civic, and educational institutions.

Herman Lansing Vail was born on July 6, 1895, in Cleveland to Harry and Sarah Wickham Vail. He was nicknamed “Dutch” for his blond hair and Dutch grandmother. He graduated from University School in 1913, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University in 1917.

Vail was a 1st lieutenant in the 332nd Infantry during World War I. Leaving for France in 1918, he fought in the battle of Vittorio-Veneto on the Italian Front and was in the Army of Occupation. He returned from the war and earned an LL.B. from Harvard University Law School in 1922, being admitted to the Ohio bar the same year.

He became a partner in the law firm of Sayre, Vail, Steele & Renkert, and later was a senior partner in the firm of Vail, Steele, Howland & Olson.

A lifelong Republican, Vail served two terms in the Ohio legislature from 1929 to 1933. He was chairman of the House Tax Committee and was a member of the Ohio Special Joint Taxation Commission. He served on the Bratenahl Village Council from 1938 through 1951, as its president from 1940.

Vail became involved in Forest City Publishing Company, the Plain Dealer publisher, as a trustee representing the Holden family. In 1941 he was named a director of Forest City Publishing, and on June 1, 1962, he succeeded Stanley Graham as president, serving until 1970. He was also president of the Art Gravure Corporation of Ohio.

In the cultural and civic field, Vail served as chairman of the Northern Ohio Opera Association, president of the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. He was a member of the American Legion, Princeton Alumni Association, and The Country Club.

Vail was also a distinguished book collector, specializing in items relating to the Hudson Bay Company.

Herman married Delia White on June 29, 1922. The Vails had two sons: Herman Lansing Jr., born in 1924, and Thomas Van Husen, born on June 22, 1926.

Delia was born on November 9, 1898, the daughter of Windsor and Delia White and the granddaughter of Liberty and Delia Holden. She was educated in Froebel School, grades 1 to 5; Laurel School, grades 5 to 10, and Westover School 1917. She attended the Garland School of Homemaking in Boston and the Boston School of Occupational Therapy.

Delia White Vail was prominent in Cleveland’s cultural and social circles for more than a third of a century. Her varied philanthropic activities began in 1917 when she became one of the first certified occupational therapists trained during World War I. Working with the Association for Crippled and Disabled Children, she conducted an occupation therapy class under the auspices of the Office of Civil Defense during World War II.

Delia served as a reconstruction aid for occupational therapy at a hospital in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and maintained a lifelong interest in therapy.

Her activities took in the Cleveland Art Institute, of which she was a trustee, and the Cleveland Health Museum, where she was a director.

Delia was an artist proficient in oils and watercolors. She had her own kiln in the basement in a room she called “The Shop.” She installed a big jigsaw, a ten-inch Delta wood lathe, and a combination set-up of a circular saw and joiner. Later a floor-stand drill press and woodcarver were added. She was adept with all the tools.

A prominent horsewoman, Delia belonged to the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club. Hunting and shooting were among her favorite hobbies. Her kennel of springer spaniels included many field champions.

Delia died on December 22, 1952, at age 54, in University Hospital after a three-month illness and is buried in Lake View Cemetery.  The terms of her will specified that if her husband remarried, he and his new wife could not occupy the residence at 9448 Lake Shore Boulevard.

Herman did remarry to Mary Louise (Frackelton) Gleason in 1965, and the house was sold. Mary had been previously married to Charles Billings Gleason, who died December 12, 1956. They had two children: Caroline (Oberndorf) and David.

Mary was born on July 12, 1902. She graduated from Laurel School and Wellesley College and was raised with the ethic of giving back to the community. She spent a lifetime serving others. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Women and Who’s Who in Ohio.

Herman Vail died on January 7, 1981, and is buried next to Delia in Lake View Cemetery. Mary Louise died on April 18, 1997, and is buried next to Charles Gleason in Lake View Cemetery.