Daniels died Saturday in Miami.
Born in Washington, D.C., Daniels was the grandson of the late editor and publisher Josephus Daniels, founder of The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.
Derick Daniels attended the University of North Carolina before working as a reporter at the St. Petersburg Times and The Atlanta Constitution.
He joined The Miami Herald in 1955, working as a copy editor, assistant city editor, and city editor. In 1961, he moved to the Detroit Free Press. He was executive editor when the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting of the 1967 Detroit riot.
Mort Persky, a longtime friend and colleague, said Daniels was a highly respected editor.
"Derick almost never gave an order," Persky told the Detroit Free Press. "His suggestions showed you the way. He gave people confidence they could do things they didn't think they could do."
Daniels served as vice president for news for Knight Newspapers, which later became Knight-Ridder, before he was named president of Playboy Enterprises in 1976. He became known as much for his flamboyant wardrobe -- which included a gold lame jumpsuit -- his five wives, and his love of blackjack as he was for his publishing expertise.
He was credited with helping lead Playboy out of financial problems, pulling the company out of its movie-theater and music-publishing ventures as stock prices and profit margins grew. He stepped down in 1982.
"He was attracted by Playboy because it had the three things in the world he enjoyed the most: drinking, gambling, and women," said first cousin Frank Daniels Jr., former president and publisher of The News & Observer. "You scored pretty well with all three with Playboy,"
Daniels is survived by his wife, Lee; sons Leigh and Scott and stepsons Joseph and Kirk Wasserstrom. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday in Miami.
By: (AP) Derick Daniels, an award-winning newspaper editor and former president of Playboy Enterprises, has died of cancer. He was 76.