January 1960: New owner announces plan to turn Mountain Eagle into a daily paper


As our new design now reminds readers, this paper has been around since 1872, but this year marks the 60th anniversary of its becoming a daily.

The announcement was made in January 1960 that Donald White of Tennessee had purchased Jasper's three weekly newspapers — The Mountain Eagle, the Jasper Advertiser and the Walker County Times — with plans to offer a daily paper. 

White was a native of Bristol, Tennessee and had served for several years as vice president of two daily newspapers in Bristol, Tennessee and adjacent Bristol, Virginia.

"I have been interested in finding a newspaper property for several months and I am happy over the selection of Jasper," White said. "After surveying several Southern cities, I was impressed by the growth and future possibilities of this area and I'm sure I will enjoy becoming part of such a fine community."

The Mountain Eagle and Jasper Advertiser were both owned by E.H. Pierce, who had been in Jasper since 1931. Pierce had worked for both papers before purchasing the Advertiser. He acquired the Eagle in 1939. The two papers had merged during World War II, but the Advertiser had relaunched in September 1959 as a Monday morning newspaper.

"The idea of a daily newspaper for Jasper has long been a dream of mine and it is my sincere hope the  new owners will be able to carry out their plans very quickly," said Pierce, who said he would be retiring.

The Walker County Times was owned by Bill Jones and Jay Thornton. Jones, a former Eagle publisher, has been mentioned in this column before. He left the paper in 1954 to work in D.C. for Congressman Carl Elliott. 

Jones was also friends with George Wallace, whom he had met in the 1940s when they were students at the University of Alabama. He would go on to be Wallace's press secretary when he was elected governor.

Eagle readers heard more extensive comments from White when he submitted a "Publisher's Pledge" to be printed on the front of the Jan. 28 issue:

"For many years the Mountain Eagle has been a force in the county. It has been a force for good as opposed to evil; it has been active in promoting the welfare of the community. Its news content has been presented without fear or favor, and it has been aggressive in supporting those issues it sincerely believes in. We can do no less than to bend our efforts toward the continuation of those policies.

"In every profession there are so-called ethics or principles under which honest men of good intent strive to conduct the affairs of their profession. In no other profession do these affairs come under such close scrutiny by the public as do those of a newspaper publisher, and rightly so for it is his prime responsibility to report the news in a fair and impartial manner, thus guaranteeing the maintenance of a 'free press.' We hold to this basic freedom and shall practice its applications at all times."

Also in January 1960, a woman inexplicably fell through a plate glass window at Ziff's on 19th Street. Betty Parker, 24, was the mother of two and pregnant with her third child when she fainted while waiting in the store for her husband to come pick her up. She fell through the store window, which was 1/4-inch thick, and suffered cuts on her face, shoulder and hand. When asked about the incident at the hospital, Parker said she didn't remember anything.

Sheriff Brunner Nix, who was wrapping up his first year in office, issued a report on the amount of bootleg whiskey confiscated and stills destroyed. The totals came to 108,400 gallons of mash, 137 stills and 23 individuals arrested. 

At Walker College, a Cuban student studying mechanical engineering had just transferred from Birmingham Southern College. Felipe Scotolongo was sharing an apartment with freshman Al Tidwell.

Scotolongo said his reason for leaving Birmingham-Southern was that he wasn't learning English there. At Walker, he was enrolled in an English class as well as economics, physics and engineering drawing. 

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