Thanksgiving 2020 is gone, but I’m still in a thankful spirit. If you are reading these words, I am grateful. If your ad—large or small—appears in this or other editions, I am grateful. Your loyalty—your support—has kept our presses rolling since 1865. We didn’t get to be Wayne County’s oldest continually operated business without you.
And that makes me feel proud. When my feet touch the floor each morning, I feel young. But when I reflect that I’ve been with your newspaper for almost one-third of its 155 years, well, that makes me feel old and proud.
I can’t imagine any other career. Elliott Brack—with his pants-on-fire brand of journalism—ignited my passion. EEB, as I call him, has long since retired, but I always expect and appreciate his critiques. EEB and Dr. Lanier Harrell accepted me as a greenhorn in 1971. We were partners for a short time, but their influence will never fade.
Newspapering is a calling. You must work long hours and occasionally endure abuse, mostly verbal. Physical threats do pop up, too, but you can’t bow to bullies. A core belief is that strong newspapers help to build strong communities.
Scrolling back over the past 50 years, I remember some examples of how your newspaper’s strength and stamina helped build a stronger Wayne County:
- Jesup is a town built by trains, but 40 years ago cobwebs were growing in our passenger depot. Your newspaper urged Congressman Billy Evans to push Amtrak to put Jesup on its service map. Can we take credit? No, but we amplified your voices. Now, we can hop on a train to New York or Miami.
- In the early 1970s Dr. Harrell, head of radiology, mentioned that Wayne Memorial Hospital (WMH) was in a dire financial crisis. Suppliers had put WMH on C.O.D. I showed up at the next authority meeting. The secretary said, “I don’tthink these sessions are open to the public.” “Maybe not in the past,” I said. “But starting tonight, expect the newspaper to be here.” Did we save the hospital? No,but we shined a light into a dark corner. Your newspaper’s steady coverage alerted the community, and you insisted changes were made to save our community’s vital institution.
- Remember when trains cutoff east-west access in Jesup? The late Billie Clanton had not forgotten when one of his daughters needed an ambulance and all the crossings were blocked. Billie and others raised a battle cry. Did your newspaper get the Pine Street Overpass built? No, but, again, we magnified your voices. Our editorials were like an Altamaha River snapping turtle. We didn’t turn loose until it thundered, as in the DOT built the much-needed overpass.
- In the 1980s Wayne County yearned for a proposed technical college. The county commission chairman said, “Sen. Joe Kennedy has promised that school to Glennville. We would be wasting our time.” And I asked, “Have they broken ground yet?” He said, “No.” “Well,” I said, “it’s not too late.” The community rallied and competed against several communities. Does The Press-Sentinelget credit for Coastal Pines Technical College? Absolutely not!All we did, again, was make sure your voices were heard. As a team, we proved what the late Coca-Cola baron, R.W. Woodruff, preached: There’s no limit to what can be accomplished when it doesn’t matter who get the credit. The pursuit of FCI Jesup was the same song, second verse.
- In January 2016The Press-Sentinel—with the help of a reader—learned Wayne County was secretly on track to become one of the largest toxic coal-ash dumps in America. Many, including several county commissioners, sighed, “There’s nothing we cando.” Your newspaper said, “Oh, no. We will stand up for the community, just as we’ve beendoing since 1865.” A grassroots effort swelled. You know the results. Does The Press-Sentineldeserve all the credit? No! We are grateful Republic listened and cooperated. Whatever has been accomplished, we achieved it together.
The Press-Sentinel is committed to being the tip of Wayne County’s spear in fights for what is best. We believe a strong newspaper helps to build a strong community. And to be strong, we need you—our readers and advertisers. Teamwork really works.
Besides, a selfish and bloated ego is boneheaded. I was reminded of that premise early in my career.
U.S. Rep. Billy Stuckey, Eastman, stopped by the Wayne County Press.
“Congressman,” EEB asked, “what can we do for you?”
With a friendly smirk, Billy said, “Elliott, please support my opponent. Your endorsements are the kiss of death.”