Daniel Regis Knighton

1 January, 19391 October, 2019

Dr. Daniel Regis Knighton, 80, passed away in Wilmington, North Carolina on October 1, 2019. Born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, on New Year’s Day of 1939, he was orphaned by the untimely deaths of his parents. After stints in the foster care system and the U.S. Army, he earned a B.A. at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a doctorate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he completed a dissertation in the field of labor economics. His teaching career at Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University – Moorhead) spanned three decades, during which he developed a reputation for rigor in the classroom, founded a successful forensic economics consulting firm, and served prominently as the president of the faculty union.

Dan will be remembered by many for his formidable and independent intellect, fearlessness as a debater, and reliably sharp wit, as well as for his lifelong political commitments to labor and civil rights. These traits were complemented by the passion he felt for his hobbies. He was a champion at racquet sports and an avid cross-country skier, but it was long-distance cycling that was paramount. He completed a coast-to-coast ride from Washington to Maine in 2003, as well as many other challenging itineraries in the United States and Europe (including many shared with his wife, Karen, with the two of them on a state-of-the-art tandem touring bike). Even as his vision worsened due to macular degeneration, he continued to take pleasure in books, playing and listening to bluegrass, and the sometimes tortured fandom that came from following Tarheel basketball and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chief among his survivors is his wife, Karen, with whom he recently celebrated fifty years of marriage; they retired to Southport, North Carolina in 1999 after more than thirty years in the Red River Valley region of the northern plains. He is also survived by the following: a daughter, Jennifer Lynn DeVito, of Hermosa Beach, California; a son, Andrew Lyndon Knighton, of Los Angeles; two grandsons, Jordan Jeffrey DeVito and Judson Robert Knighton Brill; and his mother-in-law, Evelyn “Peppermint” Perryman. Other extended family is concentrated in the Southport area and in central and eastern Pennsylvania. He is preceded in death by his oldest son, Daniel Judson Knighton; his brother, William Knighton; and his parents, Margaret R. Hagula Knighton and Regis Edward “Rege” Knighton.

The family will miss Dan profoundly and will memorialize him privately, with wishes for boundless horizons and eternal tailwinds. Memorial donations may be made to either the American Macular Degeneration Foundation or the American Civil Liberties Union.

Online condolences may be made at

Peacock - Newnam & White Funeral and Cremation Service, Southport, NC.

Add a


Daniel Regis Knighton

have a memory or condolence to add?

Katherine Hagen

February 12, 2020

So sorry to hear about Dan Knighton's passing. Memories from long ago include great parties at his home across from Greensboro College where we had such lively and stimulating political discussions about the labor movement in North Carolina and the US generally. I was personally impressed with his deep commitment and his courageous organizing experiences with and for workers in the textile industry. He carried that personal commitment to workers rights throughout his professional career.

Becky Knudson

January 10, 2020

I attended Moorhead State and graduated with a degree in Econ in 1991. Daniel Knighton was a key person in my education. He brought this field to life for me, confirmed this is a valued way to go out into the world and make a difference. His advice and passion for many things has stayed with me all these years as I made my mark on the world. His mentoring drives me to do the same for others. I do my best to emulate him, working to encourage and inpire people to make a difference with the talent, courage and passion they have in thier own special way. Even though my time with him was short and long ago, his impact is felt every day and will be so until my time is done in this world. Words fail to adequately express what a joy it was to know him, learn from him and laugh with him.

Donna Rosh

January 1, 2020

Dan Knighton - What a guy! We shared a bond as fellow Pennsylvanians and knew where each other was literally coming from. I can attest that Dan did more than anyone to help female and diverse faculty members approach equity at MSUM. He fought the good fight with intellect and humor. Dan was one of the most quick witted and kind men I have ever known. Despite his formidable image, he was truly, as he once described himself, a "Care Bear. "
My sympathy to Karen and family.

Maribeth Dittberner Kelly

December 18, 2019

I met Dan on a flight from Minneapolis to Fargo. I was a travel agent and started making his travel arrangements, and we got to be good friends. His sense of humor was the best! I also had the pleasure of getting to know Karen. They were a fabulous couple!

Ross Nelson

November 11, 2019

Dr. Knighton was one of the most unforgettable professors I had at Moorhead State. He always had a cup of coffee on hand when he lectured and occasionally told us stories of his labor activist past. I knew that he raised chickens and tried to fight a thickening middle by eating oatmeal, but had no idea he was so multifaceted. Judo, cross-country bicycling, racquetball, etc. etc., not to mention a textbook he wrote that he was justifiably proud of.

As an economics major I was asked by Dr. Knighton if I wanted to be a tutor. I declined. My loss, as I'm sure I would've gotten to know this blunt, accomplished academic and the economics field much better. No doubt he invited St. Peter to join the Gatekeeper Union.

Sumi Lehman

October 14, 2019

I am so sorry for your loss. Dan will be missed by many.

Linda Thomas

October 12, 2019

Sending my sympathies. I hold dear the memories of visiting with you, including those days of butchering chickens and chasing children around the farmsite.

Mark Kolstad

October 12, 2019

In the early 1980s, I took a 200-level economics course as a prerequisite to an MBA degree at Moorhead State University. I was in my early 30s and was probably a bit smug about taking an "easy" class. To this day, it's the most memorable class I've ever taken. Dr. Knighton could hold your attention forever. He was witty, informed, assertive, and certainly one of the most intelligent individuals ever to walk the halls of MSU. I still recall writing a paper on "trickle-down" economics and learning more from after-class discussions with him than from the "research" I did individually. He had the gift of engaging one's attention that very few people possess. And he had the ability to make you "feel" a cause like no one else. My sympathies to Dr. Knighton's family.
Mark Kolstad - Fargo, ND

David Berg

October 11, 2019

To Dr. Knighton’s family — I was a student at Moorhead State a long, long time ago, but I would like to share a remembrance of an interaction that Dr. Knighton and I had back then. I had recently finished four years in the military and was a brand new student at MSU. My major was Mass Communications, because I wanted to be the next Woodward or Bernstein (back when we held our Presidents to a much higher standard of accountability...). I was getting minors in Economics and Political Science, and Dr. Knighton taught me in micro-economics in my second quarter at the university. (Olde Frothingslosh Pale Stale Ale came up frequently in his lectures!)

In his role as Chair of the Econ department, Dr. Knighton actively recruited me to switch to Econ as my major, or to get a double major. I responded in all honesty that I didn’t now how I could earn a living with an Economics degree. I proceeded to complete my degree, and go to work at WDAY, where Dan hosted a talk show for some years.

About two years later I was tired of following fire trucks, and other meaningless reporting tasks. Someone suggested that I apply to get into the MS program for Ag Economics at NDSU. The idea sounded intriguing to me, and long story short, I was accepted, completed the degree and had a long and rewarding career in agriculture.

Turns out you CAN earn a living with a degree in Economics. I wonder how my life might have turned out differently if I had followed Dr. Knighton’s advice when he first offered it. One way or the other, he was right, and I appreciated what he taught me as a student and also as a mentor.

His personality and intellect make him one of the best instructors that I ever had at any level of my education.

Thank you, Dan Knighton!

Eric Perryman

October 10, 2019

Thanks for being the Big Guy

Learn more about the Knighton name