Most community newspapers are small, although there are two or three larger ones that contain pictures of my show calves and me. All of them are slightly yellowed and somewhat worn by the weight of many years.
But I still can read them, and I still can remember.
Community newspapers contain accounts of loved ones and their departures after lives well-lived. And political happenings — victories, accomplishments, positions taken, critical letters to the editor and the like, with the positive being in greater numbers, not necessarily because of preponderance of happenings but more so to do with what was saved.
I kept all of these boxes of clippings; perhaps my most-cherished clip is the one from the Houston Home Journal, telling of the June 1963 departure of four local boys — Bobby Jones, Jerry Horton, Jerry Wilson and Larry Walker — for Fort Worth, Texas, and their summer work at Texas Steel Company. It’s as if the accounts in this timeless treasure come back to life every time I see and read it.
I must mention three weekly newspapers of particular significance to me: the Sandersville Progress, delivered to my Walker grandparents’ home on dirt Sparta-Davisboro Road in rural Washington County; Macon County’s Citizen Georgian, which covered me when I represented that county in the General Assembly; and the one I love, the Houston Home Journal.
Then there are other community newspapers — outstanding in every respect — that come to mind as examples of the best in community journalism: the Blackshear Times, the Jesup Press-Sentinel, the Northeast Georgian of Cornelia and the Clayton Tribune.
These papers are the conscience of the community. They report on city and county governments. They help to keep local officials honest and on the right path. And, very importantly, they write the history of the place and people even while it is being made.
Community newspapers are us. They tell our story — the tales of those of us who don’t live in Atlanta or New York or even Macon. It’s the chronicle record of what we do, are and aspire to be. And it’s what the world, or this part of it, will know about us when we long since have crossed over the river.
I love our community newspapers. I can’t wait to look at mine when it comes out Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s been that way ever since I was just a boy, ever since I was able to read and understand.
And I remember editors like Cooper Etheridge, Bobby Branch and Foy Evans; printers like Byron Maxwell; writers like Charlotte Moore (“Porky,” we miss you); and owners like Danny and Julie Evans. Thanks to all of you for enriching my life and making it more enjoyable. And thanks for making a permanent record of my little accomplishments in my little part of the world, as well as the accomplishments of friends and family.
Newspapers may be in financial trouble, but not “ours.” Not the ones that are close to their readers and know what really is important to readers — you know, things like a huge tomato, twin calves, a 50-pound watermelon grown by Mr. Gray, the cat caught in the wheel well of the mayor’s car, Mr. William Jones seeing what he believed to be a black panther out on Salem Church Road and the squirrel that interrupted the morning service at the First Baptist Church. What fun. What memories.
I love community newspapers.
Walker has practiced law for 48 years in his hometown of Perry. He served in the General Assembly for 32 years and now is a member of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents. His column appears weekly in the Houston Home Journal. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.