October 1952: Eagle apologizes to Elliott, celebrates paper's 80th anniversary

Posted 10/12/18

The editors of The Mountain Eagle had some explaining to do during the first week of October 1952.The previous week, the Eagle had reported on Congressman Carl Elliott's vist with officers of the …

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October 1952: Eagle apologizes to Elliott, celebrates paper's 80th anniversary

Posted

The editors of The Mountain Eagle had some explaining to do during the first week of October 1952.

The previous week, the Eagle had reported on Congressman Carl Elliott's vist with officers of the Walker County Parent Teacher Association at West Jasper School. A photo and small article ran on A6 of the Sept. 25 edition. 

The coverage was unremarkable except for its ending, in which Elliott supposedly shared his thoughts on the topic of "What to Do to Make Women People."

His conclusion, paraphrased by the paper, was that women would never fully be able to become people, but they may come near that admirable goal.

Readers were surely baffled by the remarks until Oct. 2, when the Eagle published an official explanation and apology at the top of the page.

It seems that the photographer assigned to the meeting had been having some fun with the rewrite reporter, an antiquated position long since abandoned by the Eagle and I would imagine by almost all papers in this era of downsizing.

The rewrite reporter did not cover events. His job was to take the information submitted by other reporters who were there and turn it into an article. 

On this occasion, the photographer made up the quotes at the end of the article hoping to get a laugh out of the rewrite reporter. The topic chosen was "the most impossible subject the photographer could imagine," according to the Eagle's explanation.

Unfortunately, the rewrite reporter didn't catch it and "working under pressure, added it to the story that went in the paper."

Eagle editors apologized to Elliott personally and also offered a public apology in the Oct. 2 edition. 

The editors expressed regret that an employee had been "guilty of such unforgivable conduct" and assured the paper's readership that connections with the responsible parties had been severed.

However, Elliott had interceded for the men who had wronged him. At his request, they were given a few days off and restored to the staff on probation.

The incident was surely an embarrassment for Eagle editors as they prepared for the paper's 80th anniversary birthday party on Oct. 11.

Editors had invited every county resident 80 years old and above to a day-long celebration.

Attendees would become charter members of an Octogenarian Club, attend a screening of "Roll On, Texas Moon" starring Roy Rogers at the Jasper Theatre and be the guests of honor at a barbecue dinner held at the city auditorium. 

Eagle editor W.W. Gunter would serve as master of ceremonies, and Rev. A.T. Sprouse of First Methodist Church would conduct a rededication service for the Eagle and its employees.

A front page article announcing the party on Oct. 9 was accompanied by an editorial on page two.

"There is nothing mercenary about the Eagle's plan for entertaining the old people at considerable expense; they have been subscribers and readers of this newspaper through decades, through prosperous times and depressions, some of whom have been subscribers and supporters of it for more than 70 years, and the Eagle is not going to forget them in their old age," editors wrote.

Also on Oct. 9, the Eagle announced that William G. "Bill" Jones Jr. had joined the paper as assistant publisher and vice president in charge of newspapers.

In 1955, Jones would take a leave of absence to serve in Washington, D.C. as press and legislative assistant for the aforementioned Congressman Elliott.

In 1962, Jones took a job in the enemy camp as Gov. George Wallace’s press secretary and senior policy advisor. He was beside Wallace during his infamous stand in the schoolhouse door and headed up his presidential campaign in 1968.

In 1966, he had the opportunity to run either Elliott's or Lurleen Wallace's gubernatorial campaign. Unwilling to choose between his two friends, Jones ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Tom Bevill.

I interviewed Mr. Jones in his Birmingham apartment in 2013, and he wouldn't tell me which candidate got his vote in '66.

He passed away in 2015 at age 92. 


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.