June 13, 2024

Jekyll Island fills a scrapbook of memories


            Just driving on the Jekyll Island Causeway makes me smile.

            A foot-high scrapbook couldn’t hold all the magical memories of my visits to this 11-mile-long, skinny Golden Isle.

            Since Gov. M.E. Thompson engineered the state’s purchase in 1947, Jekyll Island has weathered some good and bad eras. But in 2024 I believe it’s showing its best side ever. Retired executive director Jones Hooks deserves a double portion of the credit for getting Georgia’s coastal “gem” polished and ready for the future.

            We’ve just returned from the 137th annual Georgia Press Association (GPA) Convention. While sitting on the veranda of the iconic Jekyll Island Club Hotel, I thought about my boyhood visits: putt-putt golf, the Wanderer Motel, splashing in the surf and watching giant loggerhead sea turtles bury their eggs in the sand. Those few summer trips were as close to a family vacation as we ever had.

            Now I can’t count the times that I’ve been to Jekyll Island. But here are four of my favorite memories:


Ten years into my 53-year career, I was elected the second-youngest president of the statewide organization. The youngest to ever hold GPA’s gavel was my friend Robert Williams of The Blackshear Times. I succeeded him.

We both started our Southeast Georgia careers in 1971. He went to Blackshear in May. I arrived in Jesup in August. I joked that we were “boy publishers.” Twice we’ve been partners in newspapers. And from Day One, we’ve been the best of friends.

Robert’s and my GPA leadership began in the futuristic-looking Aquarama. That oceanside complex was bulldozed—none too soon—for the current showplace, the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

It’s been 43 years since I was elected GPA president.



Tom Wilson made an appointment to visit me in my office. He asked for permission to marry my daughter, Emily. My answer was easy. She had fallen in love with the right young man at the University of Georgia.

Jekyll Island’s historic Faith Chapel was the perfect storybook setting for their July 29, 2000, wedding. Twenty-four years later, they have four sons who have four cousins.

While at this year’s convention, I took a peek into the Jekyll Island Club Hotel’s ballroom. Seeing the heart-pine floors, I smiled. I can still hear the Temptations’ tune, “My Girl,” from when Em and I danced.



When our older son was 10, I asked, “Alan, what are you going to be when you grow up?” He laughed and said, “I am not sure, but I can tell you what I’m not going to be, a newspaperman.”


“Because you have to work too many hours and come home grouchy.”

I explained the hours were part of the profession, but I’d work on my “grouchy.”

And then in his mid-20s—while at UGA—Alan surprised me, saying, “I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Newspapers are what I know and what I love.”

Today he is chairman and co-CEO of Community Newspapers Inc. (CNI). But in 2020 he was elected—on Jekyll Island—president of GPA.



Our family’s motto could be “We will work.” Our younger son, Eric, had watched Alan and Emily start their newspaper careers, inserting newspaper sections at age 8.

Eric couldn’t wait that long. At age 7, he found a Coca-Cola crate to stand on so that he could begin his newspaper career, stuffing sections of The Press-Sentinel. By the time he entered UGA, he knew where he was headed. In 2014 the National Newspaper Association presented him the Daniel M. Phillips Leadership Award, signifying Eric as one of America’s top young publishers.

Eric started as a reporter and switched to sales. He set a sales record yet to be broken before moving into management. Today Eric is a member of CNI’s board of directors.

On Jekyll at the recent GPA convention, Eric was elected president.


Yes, indeed.

Jekyll Island makes me smile.