Millard Grimes, Reflections on Georgia Politics

BOB SHORT: I’m Bob Short, and this is Reflections on Georgia Politics, sponsored by the Richard Russell Library at the University of Georgia Our guest is Millard Grimes, who is a well-known newspaper man and author Millard, welcome to our program MILLARD GRIMES: Thank you SHORT: You are a newspaper man You literally grew up in the newspaper business, working as a copy boy, a proofreader and a sports reporter for the Columbus Ledger while you were still in high school GRIMES: That’s right I’ve never made a dollar since then in any business except publishing, newspapers or magazines So, I guess, yeah, I’m a newspaper man SHORT: You were born in Newnan GRIMES: Yes, I was born in Newnan in 1930, just a few months after the Wall Street crash that ushered in the Great Depression My father lost his job during that time, and so I only lived in Newnan a few weeks as a baby Although that was the county, Coweta County, was where the families of both my parents had lived for generations And a lot of them are still buried there around the Welcome Church, if you know where that is Well, Elim Church in the Welcome community But we moved to LaGrange when I was still a baby, as I said And so I grew up in LaGrange, which actually was a great place to grow up in the 1930s It was a small, small town, about 18,000, 20,000 But it was a cotton mill town, I guess But we lived only about a block from what you might call downtown So you could walk everywhere You could walk to the theater or the stores on Main Street to the church So, actually, I had access to a lot of that stuff And back in those days, of course, a kid could walk all over town by himself if he wanted to And I mean, we were poor, I guess you’d have to say I don’t think my father ever made much more than 20 dollars a week, 25, maybe some — he was a traveling salesman for the Culpepper Company there I’ve often said we were so poor, we could hardly afford a maid, because maids then were two dollars a week So we did afford a maid, which was fortunate, because my mother was sickly and stayed in the bed most of the time And then, my father, he traveled a lot He didn’t get home a lot, sometimes on purpose and sometimes because he had to work And I think he sort of took to drinking during this period and some nights didn’t come home at all But my grandmother came to live with us, so I guess my grandmother sort of raised me But we lived right there on Broom Street I don’t know whether you know where that is or not in LaGrange, but it’s just, like I say, right off the square But I loved growing up in LaGrange, because it was such a big difference in those days, in the 1930s If you lived in a relatively urban area, I guess you would call it, and about two to three miles away, outside the city limits, people didn’t have running water, they didn’t have electricity, they didn’t have a lot of comforts we now have And the difference is just maybe a couple of miles And it wasn’t how rich or poor you were It was actually if you lived in a town or if you lived out in the country, no matter how rich you were, you usually had to have a well, and it was a long time before you got electricity So growing up in a small town, also, you had access to stores much easier, and theaters I keep saying the movie theater, because in the 30s, going to the movie for a dime was the big entertainment for children And I started buying Big Little books You remember those? Comic books and things like that And I was always a reader and always wanted to be a writer And I really started out wanting to be a fiction writer And wrote a lot of stories Wrote stories for comic books and science fiction, the pulp magazines, as I got into my teenage years But I soon realized it was going to be hard to make a living at a penny at a word I just couldn’t write that many words So in the summer of my junior year at Columbus High, I went down and applied for a job at the Ledger-Enquirer, the daily newspaper there

And they had a job for a proofreader during the vacations of the other proofreader I was only 16 years old, which I thought was a little young for that job And then I was a copy boy on Saturdays They don’t have copy boys anymore, and sometimes I’m not sure they have proofreaders anymore Everybody has to kind of proofread their own stuff But the copy boy was very important in those days He not only had to go get coffee for all the people in the newsroom, which was very important, but he had to strip the wires and, later, wind up the paper tape that was sent by the wire services that you put through the linotype machines Well, if the copy boy didn’t come in in the morning around 5:00 or 6:00, the editors didn’t have any wire copy, which back in those days was extremely important, because we didn’t have as much local as they do today But in any case, that was my introduction And I worked at the Columbus paper during my years here at the university in the summers My father died when I was a senior in high school, and my mother used the money to sort of send me through school It was insurance money, and that’s how I happened to get through Georgia SHORT: So you came to the University of Georgia to study journalism GRIMES: Yeah SHORT: And I’m sure you must have worked on the Red and Black GRIMES: Absolutely I went down to Red and Black the first week or so I was here and worked on it ’til my senior year when I worked on the Pandora, the yearbook SHORT: What was the university like in those days? GRIMES: Well, it was, I think, great But I’d never been anywhere much I’d been to Athens once I came up here to cover a track meet When I was a senior in high school I started writing sports for the local Columbus paper And I’d been to Florida a couple of times But like I say, we didn’t travel much during the war, didn’t go anywhere So Athens, of course, today people say it’s a lot different, and, I guess, sure it is But when I was walking over here today, I realized I could still find my way, because it was similar to the way it was when I was a student and used to walk on north campus a lot And it was right after World World II, so a lot of the men students — I’d say probably more than half of the men students were veterans coming on the GI bill And of course, men outnumbered women about five to one on the campus in those days And I was a fuzzy-faced 17-year-old who came up in 1947 as a freshman at 17 I’d been about 15 when the war ended, so I missed the war, or at least as a serviceperson So it was certainly really hard to get a date for a guy who didn’t have much money and who was younger than most of the other men And we lived out in the prefabs on Ag Hill The prefabs there, they stayed there, I think, ’til the 60s And then I moved over on Milledge Avenue for my last three years But I worked at the Red and Black and would have to say it was the best training ground for newspaper people that you could have had And the people who were on the Red and Black during the period I was there just went on to have very successful careers in journalism When I was editor, John Pennington was the managing editor who Jimmy Carter gives a lot of credit for saving his political career when he investigated a voting fraud that kept Carter from winning his first race Jim Mintor was the sports editor He went on to become the editor of the Atlanta papers Dewey Benefield, who didn’t stay in newspapers, but who became a very prominent developer down in Sea Island, was there Mike Edwards, who went on to become a writer on National Geographic and is still writing for National Graphic Glenn Vaughn, who went on to be the publisher of the Columbus newspapers It was an unusual group of people there And some of them were veterans, and some of them weren’t, like Jim and I weren’t, and Dewey So the Red and Black, as I’ve often told folks, was the most exacting newspaper at that time

that I have ever worked on Every line had to fit Every headline had to fit just right, and we rewrote them time and time again And of course, we printed here in Athens in an old print shop But it was an experience that, if you went through all the rungs on the ladder, when you got out, you could put out a newspaper, a real newspaper, I think And I think a lot of those people did SHORT: You were there during the Sinkwich-Trippi years GRIMES: Well, no, I missed those SHORT: You missed it? GRIMES: I was there right after that However, I saw Trippi play several times, because they played the Georgia-Auburn game in Columbus every year at that time And so we got to usher the Georgia-Auburn games when I was in high school In fact, one of my great scoops when I was sports editor for the high school paper is I got an interview with Charley Trippi in the lobby of the Ralston Hotel I called up his room I’m not usually that brash, and Charley Trippi answered, and I asked him to meet me down in the lobby And so I interviewed him a little bit about his — it was one of the Georgia-Auburn games But, no, they had left Roush and that group were here Zippy Morocco, who’s still here in Athens, I was talking to Zippy the other day But I think it was a great time to be at the university We had big bands come in for all the big dances, like homecoming and the commencement And the city wasn’t as big Certainly it didn’t have any bars In fact, I don’t think you could serve drinks in Athens at that time, although a lot of people managed to get some But it was a great time be here BOB SHORT: So after graduation, you wound up back in Columbus GRIMES: Yes SHORT: Let’s talk about in 1955 when your newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize for documenting evidence that there was corruption in Phenix City, which is across the river GRIMES: That’s right SHORT: Tell us about that GRIMES: Well, it was an interesting year, needless to say And I would like to say that, as it was on the Red and Black when I was here at Georgia, we had an unusual group of people on the Columbus Ledger during that time who went on to — Bob Brown was the editor, and I think he was the person most responsible for us getting the Pulitzer Bob had worked with Harding Carter in Mississippi on that Delta paper, and then he went through NBC and came to the Ledger-Enquirer He was fairly young, I guess his middle 30s And he died fairly young But he did help us get that Pulitzer He was a very good political journalist, in the sense that he knew all the people in the business Well, we won — I mean, we overplayed the story, quite frankly I mean, the key to cleaning up Phenix City was that Albert Patterson, an attorney in Phenix City who pledged to clean it up, was elected Attorney-General of Alabama And one night, in a dark alley downtown, he was shot to death, on June 18, 1954 I’ll always remember that night But when he was shot and killed, that naturally created a lot of attention on Phenix City, which had been corrupt for years and years I mean, going back to the riverfront days when riverboats came in, it was a gambling center Of course, Fort Benning being across the bridge there helped create the need — not the need — but a lot of nightclubs and so forth And we used to go over there a lot, my wife and I, my fiancee at that time, and the people from the Ledger-Enquirer And frankly, I never saw all that much corruption I mean, they could serve drinks, and they had dancing And I guess they had gambling and things like that in the back rooms, but I never saw any, and other things But, in any case, when Patterson was killed, the Governor or Alabama declared martial law in Phenix City and sent the National Guard in

And the National Guard took over the entire government of Russell County and Phenix City You had a National Guardsman who was the sheriff and another one who was the police chief, and all the people who were there were ousted Then they brought in a special grand jury from all over the state, and a judge And in the next nine months, they charged and convicted a lot of the gamblers, which they felt would never have happened with the old regime in place So then they arrested the Solicitor General of Russell County, the Deputy Sheriff and the Attorney General of Alabama, whichever was attorney general at the time, and charged them with Patterson’s murder It was a very interesting trial The district attorney was probably the most powerful politician in the county, a fellow named Arch Ferrell And at the trial, the witnesses testified, several of them, that they saw Ferrell and the deputy sheriff, Fuller, shoot Patterson in this alley right there I’ll tell you a little interesting story about that alley there It was right on the main street of Phenix City at 9:00 on a Friday night So a lot of people walking up and down the street But it was a little off the sidewalk But despite eyewitnesses — and the main eyewitness, by the way, was killed in a knife fight before the trial Just a coincidence, according to the books and all And I recently read about a book about this It’s why I remember it well, because I just read a very good new book about the assassination In any case, Fuller was convicted, the deputy sheriff Ferrell was acquitted The Attorney General went to a sanitarium, as they called it back then, in Texas, and was declared mentally-unfit to stand trial And, of course, he wasn’t in Phenix City that night In fact, Ferrell’s defense was he was talking to him on the phone Now, I won’t get into all those details But in any case, he was supposed to have helped plot it, though John Patterson, Albert Patterson’s son, of course, was elected in his place to be attorney general and later was elected governor, defeating in 1958 George C. Wallace The only time Wallace ever lost an election in his career is when Patterson beat him But despite Patterson being the attorney general, they did acquit the guy he really felt was the person who was responsible for the assassination And Ferrell died in prison — not Ferrell, but Fuller died in prison about seven years later But in any case, getting back to this, we played up all this stuff, of course, and ran many stories on it I’m trying to remember exactly what we did that revealed things I think we kept the story alive because we bannered it every day and we had lots of news sources But the key was the Governor declaring martial law and sending in the troops to find out why Patterson had been murdered And they cleaned out all the gambling establishments They threw out slot machines They destroyed the places and, of course, arrested the gamblers So, yeah, we won the Pulitzer Prize and were real proud But as Ray Jenkins, who’s still a real good friend of mine and was the main reporter at that time in Phenix City, said, we kind of overplayed the story But the sequel to that is, on the day we won the Pulitzer Prize, it was announced, I had already resigned and had decided to go over to Phenix City and start a weekly newspaper They had a small weekly, but it was not very good So I got this guy who ran a radio station over there, put up two-thousand dollars I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur So I got an office in the same building that Patterson had had his office and had walked

down the steps from the night he was murdered And so we had an office there for about two years, and I tried my hand at weekly newspapers then SHORT: Well, actually you must have liked it, because even today you own several weekly newspapers GRIMES: Well, I don’t know that I liked it that much And, of course, I didn’t have any money much, and we didn’t have a print shop And the pace was so different from a daily Still is I mean, you have to really make yourself on a weekly go on and do things Whereas a daily, sort of, the deadline forces you to Actually, that experience convinced me at that time that I wanted to just be involved with dailies, if I could And so the Columbus paper took me back, which was fortunate I’ve been very lucky through the years to have a job somewhere And I went back to the Columbus paper And I left one other time for a few months to work on a paper in the Valley, which had just gone cold-type And it was owned by a guy named Carmage Walls, whom you may be familiar with Carmage had been publisher of the Macon Telegraph And he also had a hand in more weekly news dailies and weeklies, I think, than anybody in the country, because he helped young people starting And his stepson was the publisher, I think, in the Valley at that time But I went up there briefly But I had a family situation Both of our mothers lived with us, my wife’s mother and grandmother and my mother And we almost had to stay in Columbus But we tried it for a while What I was going to say about the people on the Ledger-Enquirer, when I worked there as a young copy boy, Jim Bane was a news editor who later went on to Atlanta and became the managing editor there, and then went on to be a big official in Cox newspapers Jim Bellows was the city editor, and Jim became editor of the New York Herald-Tribune And Tom Sellers and Ray Jenkins and various other people who went on to pretty good careers Joe Hall, I think he also went to Atlanta So we had an unusual staff Carlton Johnson Later, when I was editor, I brought in Charlie Black, and we sent him to Vietnam seven times And Charlie, I think, became sort of a legend covering Vietnam during the 1960s SHORT: That was a good decision you made GRIMES: Yeah Did you know Charlie? SHORT: Yes And you got firsthand coverage from Vietnam that other newspapers in the state really didn’t get GRIMES: Well, Charlie wanted to go He had been in World War II and in the Korean War And he interviewed the soldiers and the people more than the officials So he didn’t depend on news from official sources And we got letters from all over the country from people wanting Charlie’s items because they included names of their sons, fathers and husbands who were in Vietnam And Charlie died fairly young, too And it was at the memorial service, the guy who won the Pulitzer Prize for Vietnam service was there and called Charlie the “greatest reporter of the Vietnam era,” because he did report on the people The people, that is the soldiers who were actually fighting And I think it did give us a boost Because during that period, the Enquirer became the largest circulated paper in Columbus The Ledger had always been the top paper, and, of course, they used some of his articles, too But back in those days, the newspapers had separate staffs The Ledger was the afternoon paper The Enquirer the morning paper Of course, as we know, morning papers were then gaining traction to become more circulated than the afternoon papers And there was a period, of course, I was editor, too I became editor when I was just 32, in 1962, and had come back to the Ledger-Enquirer from my little excursion to the Valley And I was working on the desk again, the same job I had when I got out of college, making about 100 dollars a week And we had two children, and that was probably the low point of our career and in our lives, in a way But then, by a series of coincidences, I became editor in a couple of years

The editor of the Enquirer died one night of a heart attack And I was already writing a column and a lot of the editorials I just used to do it on the side when I was really the [indiscernible] And so I got to be the associate editor because I was writing the editorials Well, back in those days, the editor overlooked the whole operation, not just the editorial page But somebody had to write that So then they reorganized, and somehow I ended up as editor of the morning paper Well, I’d never worked on it I always worked on the afternoon paper And that was a period when Carl Sanders was running for governor and was elected So my years as editor of the Enquirer coincided with his first term And that was a great period in Georgia history, I feel SHORT: Did you ever know Bill Burson, who was a correspondent in Korea? GRIMES: Yeah Mm-hm I knew him He was in college when I was SHORT: He was here when you were here? GRIMES: Yeah Mm-hm Yeah SHORT: Bill and I worked together as press agents for governors, as you well know In your book, The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and its Newspapers since World War II, you described the years between 1950 and the 80s as the “Golden Age of Newspapers.” What was so special about that era? GRIMES: Well, first, I think newspapers’ values went up The value of the papers, that is It was years when newspapers began to go on the stock market, so you could judge their value, the big papers Small papers, if you were fairly successful, these big groups were always calling you wanting to buy you, if you were in an area they liked So it was certainly golden from that standpoint Also, we had changed from hot-type by then, most newspapers, to cold-type and offset, which allowed us to run many more pictures and local pictures Before offset, you had to have a plate made of every picture you ran, and it was costly, among other things Well, after offset, you could just run picture pages pretty easily, and eventually you could run color much more easily So it gave newspapers a chance to run more pictures Frankly, most of the — I don’t know whether this is good or bad, but for whatever it was worth, most of the editors and reporters by then were college graduates because they’d gone to college on the GI bill Whereas, before World War II, it was people who weren’t I don’t know whether that improved it Some of them were good and some of them weren’t Plus, there was very little competition for the advertising as there is now and later Newspapers were the medium in town, I’d guess you’d have to say The publishers and editors were fairly prominent people After the chains bought up most of the small dailies and many weeklies, of course the publisher just became another person that the chain happened to send in for a few years, rather than somebody that lived in the community for many years And they certainly improved a lot of papers, but they also de-proved some But my experience during that period, of course — in 1969, I left the Ledger Enquirer and got some lawyers in Opelika, Alabama, to help to put some money up to buy the paper in Opelika, the Opelika Daily News And so we did I became publisher and editor in March, 1969 And that was a great experience I’d never had a business course in my life And I mainly continued to do what I’d always done: I put the paper out every day, and got somebody else to sell the ads and do the business And we had about 6,000 circulation

It didn’t circulate much in Auburn, which is a sister city of Opelika and was the key For six months after we bought that little daily, which was really considered, I think, the worst paper in Alabama at that time, I mean, they ran nothing on the front page except wire news Back in those days, you could take the wire news off the machine and fill up your paper, which some papers kept doing and still do today Well, we ran a lot of local We started covering Auburn And six months later, we changed the name to the Opelika-Auburn News so that we could have that extension into Auburn, and also added a Sunday edition, which they’d never had And those were the two keys, I think, to expanding and succeeding in Opelika Auburn, I should say The plant was in Opelika And we did a lot of photos We covered sports very heavily, Auburn sports And nine years later, we had gone from 6,000 circulation to 9,000 So one reason I call that the “Golden Age of Newspapers” is, back in those days, you could gain circulation, which is very hard to do now But, of course, we didn’t charge much I mean, it was like a dime during the week and a quarter on Sunday And I’ve forgotten what the monthly price was And the Opelika-Auburn area was extremely competitive in those days from outside newspapers And there was a strong weekly in Auburn that was actually stronger when we bought the Daily News than it was But you had Columbus, Montgomery, Birmingham and Atlanta all sent, both afternoon and morning papers, into Lee County, Alabama And two of them had bureaus there, Columbus and Birmingham Birmingham had a real strong circulation there when we first went there But in any case, as I saying, we went from 6,000 to 20,000 in nine years and quadruple the income, which was lucky, in a way But we had this plan, as I said And the reason it was the golden age, we bought it for about a million dollars and sold it for about seven million eight years later to Thompson newspapers Thompson didn’t do as good a job as I was hoping they would But at that time, they were the largest owner of small papers in the country And they owned newspapers all over the world, including the London Times I told the guy when we were selling, I said, “Boy, I’m real proud to be associated with the group that owns the London Times And he said, “Well, that’s one of the newspapers we’ve got that doesn’t make money.” SHORT: Let talk for a minute about some of the real newspaper men during that era Who do you recall that were outstanding journalists during that period? GRIMES: Well, as I mentioned, people that worked on the Red and Black when I was there went on to be pretty outstanding One who probably doesn’t get enough recognition is Ray Jenkins, who was at Georgia at that time and worked on the Phenix City story during the Pulitzer year, and then went on to be editor of the Montgomery papers And I think one of the really great writers of that period was Grover Hall, Jr., who was the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser Grover got mixed up one time when they sold it to somebody and he left Montgomery, which was really — he never became as good a writer after that, because Montgomery was his heart It’s where his father had lived and been editor of the Montgomery paper But Grover was a unique writer He made editorials interesting, which is hard to do I mean, most newspapers sort of throw the editorial page in, without the kind of thought and writing that Hall put in it So, of course, he was in Alabama, but he was one person I feel was very important in influencing me And he and Bob Brown were good friends, who was editor of the Ledger When you were in Columbus — back in those days, I worked on the Columbus paper for 20 years and then on the Opelika-Auburn News for another ten

And even though I was very involved in Georgia, it was just across the line, for those 30 years, I was much more involved with the people right there And although I knew some of the others — I mentioned Jim Bane and Jim Bellows came from Columbus I was actually on the board of the Georgia Press Association, as well as the Alabama Press Association So I knew a lot of those people, but I don’t know if their names would be that familiar to anybody Bob Fowler was one who started the Gwinnett Daily News, and he sold it to the New York Times for umpteen-million dollars And then they closed it down SHORT: Before I forget, I’d like to ask you your opinion of what makes a good daily newspaper GRIMES: Well, that’s a good question I have thought about it a lot through the years When we bought the Opelika paper, as I said, it was not real good, I’d have to say I would say, both then and now, even more so, you had to cover the local news Television had already been a factor for nearly 20 years when we took over the Opelika paper, but, obviously, it was not the factor it is today You didn’t have cable, and you didn’t have quite as close a coverage And I think covering the local news is number one And everybody says that, but there a lot of ways you do that And then you’ve got a lot of audiences out there You’ve got an audience that wants a lot of sports news, and probably some papers overemphasize sports And I’m a big sports fan And just to compare what we did in Opelika and Auburn, we started really covering Auburn’s sports And we covered high school sports I don’t know how many high schools we must have covered They had so many then, because all these counties were getting private schools in addition to the public schools And Alabama has a lot of public schools In Lee County there was Beulah and Beauregard and Notasulga and Loachapoka, as well as Opelika and Auburn They all had Indian names And so we covered high schools real closely We ran a lot of pictures We were probably — and I think that’s a key for papers today We do that in our weeklies, is run a lot of pictures of people That’s one thing that is still difficult for any of the other media to do Plus, we ran obituaries, deaths and funerals, which very few of the media doesn’t do well, except newspapers So I think, today — I notice the Journal Constitution has emphasized deaths and funerals a little bit more, spotlighting somebody And I think their Vent column has become very popular, and many newspapers are doing that now to try to give the audience a chance to participate But I would say that our success in Opelika and Auburn, which I think is reflected in a lot of dailies, was increasing the amount of local news and running more pictures We also, of course, ran a lot of columns I’d like to mention another trend that we got into After we sold the Opelika-Auburn News, we really didn’t have that much money I didn’t have but about 15 percent of that paper And I didn’t have any money, of course, when it started I’d been in the newspaper business all my life And I had to borrow what I had in it But then we got into suburban papers Because suburban papers in the late 70s and early 80s were about the only thing a small group with not much resources could buy But you could get real good bargains in suburban papers, because the dailies, the large groups, had not discovered the suburban papers Of course, in the next 20 years, those suburban papers became real hot commodities Our first one was — well, Phenix City was sort of a suburban paper

Our first one, though, was the Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, which I got right after we sold the Opelika-Auburn News And we had it for 17 years And it was a weekly when we bought it, and we converted it into a five-day daily, and ran an all-local front page But we did have wire news inside, and we had comics, and we had other things But somehow we managed to get all local on the front page It was pretty tough some days In Rockdale County, you wouldn’t think that much happened And I’m not sure it did, but it must have Something happens all the time You just have to be creative, I think But at one time we had the paper in Rockdale, Clayton County — which was a real good county back in those days for news, where Newt Gingrich was headquartered, so to speak Henry County, which I never guessed was going to grow like it has And Fayette county, which obviously was a hot county But at the time we had the paper there, it didn’t even have a motel You had to go to either Newnan or Clayton County to spend the night And all those counties, of course, became very strong SHORT: You mentioned editorials Do you think that newspaper editorials help to form public opinion? GRIMES: Well, I don’t know for sure That’s what I have mainly done through the years is write editorials and columns I never was a reporter too long I started being an editor, that is So back when I was editor of the Enquirer, we had to write about two or three editorials a day and a column, and oversee the paper I mean, back in those days, the editors really worked I think today they just write maybe an editorial once in a while I never got a lot of feedback from editorials I think letters to the editor get more feedback almost And I say that as somebody who wrote editorials and thought they were pretty good, and still do write I still write a column pretty much every week But I think the news has more impact on people, not just for selling the paper to them, but even influencing them I think they look on editorials as somebody else’s opinion So I’m not sure SHORT: Now, with your permission, I’d like to get your thoughts on some of Georgia’s most well-known political writers and editorialists And, of course, the first one that comes to mind is Ralph McGill GRIMES: Yeah Well, I thought he was real good I mean, I used to read his column regularly I’m sure he must have had some influence on the situation that evolved in Georgia But I think the person who had the most influence was Carl Sanders, who was the governor during the 60s, at a time when, if you remember the 60s, cities all over the South were exploding States — of course, living on the Alabama border, I was quite familiar with what was going on in Birmingham, Montgomery, various places Somehow, if you look at the difference in Georgia and Alabama during the 1960s, when Wallace was governor in Alabama and Sanders was governor in Georgia, you can see that Georgia fared much better and became the commercial capital of the South, particularly Atlanta Now, I don’t know if you can give Sanders or McGill, either one, credit for all that But they were — Sanders, particularly, was in a position to sort of keep things calm And, as I’ve said, Sanders, while he was governor, all three major league sports brought teams to Atlanta Baseball was the Braves, and Atlanta built that great stadium, which I still think was great, because you saw it when you came into the city real vividly and dramatically

Brought the Falcons, the NFL football team, and then the Hawks, the basketball team And I think that put Atlanta on every sports page in the county, a little line every morning in the major league sports And then you had that stadium, which many people came to And I think also it probably gave Atlanta that boost that Birmingham — and even some of the others, Charlotte for a long time and Jacksonville — didn’t have, because they had the major league teams And you have to give Sanders a lot of credit for that, because he personally brought a couple of those teams in And he and Ivan Allen working together got that stadium built in something like a year, didn’t they? You were there, I’m sure SHORT: Yeah GRIMES: And that was really one of the miracles of Georgia It also was the period when the major hotels all came to Atlanta: the Hyatt-Regency, the Marriott, later the Peachtree Plaza, or whatever it was, Westin And I think Sanders cleared the way for a lot of that by convincing people outside of Georgia that we were calm I don’t know that we were all that calm or not But in any case, that all came about McGill died in, what, 1969 or ’70 But I think his influence and Patterson’s influence helped keep Atlanta — gave it an image, in any case And that’s very important, of course And I think we had an image, Atlanta and Georgia did, that was much better than the other states, and has still created the atmosphere that enabled us to finally get the Olympics and so forth SHORT: Let’s talk about that period for a moment Preceding Sanders as governor was Ernest Vandiver, who most people believe was one of the most courageous governors we ever had because of the circumstances he faced during his administration What did you think about that period? GRIMES: Well, I think he felt like he had to do what he did, which was allow integration here at the university and integration in general When we did this article on Sanders for Georgia Trend years later, Vandiver wrote me a letter and was upset, that he felt like he should have gotten more credit, because he allowed the integration and so forth But I think it was reluctant And in his campaign for governor, he vowed never to allow any kind of integration, which I think he carried every county but three So apparently the right way But I felt like Sanders did more than Vandiver overall, because he came in and sort of — I can’t remember all the things he did Of course, he was a great education governor I haven’t brushed up on some of that, but I know he did a lot of things And Vandiver did, he had a tough time and allowed the integration of the university, two or three people He was a good governor Most of our really great governors never were elected to anything else I thought Ellis Arnall was a very progressive governor Never was elected again Sanders never was elected to anything again And Vandiver was never elected to anything again So we don’t reward our real progressive officials too well SHORT: Do you remember that race in 1966 when Governor Arnall ran against a group of people which included Lester Maddox? And even Bo Callaway from down in your way was the Republican GRIMES: Yeah SHORT: What do you remember about that race? GRIMES: Well, quite a bit I wrote a little book about it I was editor of the Inquirer then and was a pretty good acquaintance of Bo Callaway

He had become the first Republican congressman two years earlier And that was the district that Columbus was in And, of course, Pine Mountain was very near Columbus, and we would go over there a lot And Callaway today will admit that he ran a very bad campaign that he should have won What happened was, though, there were four major candidates running for the Democratic nomination Maybe five, I guess you could say And Maddox only got something like 19 percent of the vote, but that was enough to get him into a runoff with Arnall, who got about 28 percent And Garland Byrd was in that race, and Jimmy Carter, who came in third, and James Gray, who was sort of the establishment candidate So there were five major candidates, yeah And then Arnall beat Maddox in the runoff Of course, there were a lot of rumors that the Republicans voted for Maddox because they thought he’d be easier to beat But I don’t think that was true If you analyze the vote in the primary and the general election, the candidates that went heavily for Arnall in the runoff were the same ones that went heavily for Callaway in the general election So I don’t think there was quite as much so-called crossover voting as people thought As you recall, Callaway finished slightly ahead of Maddox in the general election, about 3,000 votes, but he didn’t get a majority And at that time, the General Assembly selected the governor from the top two And, of course, the General Assembly was heavily Democratic still and selected Maddox over Callaway And I think that delayed the Republican domination of Georgia politics for several years, because Callaway was the last Republican to get more votes in the general election than the Democrat until Perdue in 2002 SHORT: Mm-hm The demise of the county unit system in Georgia, which a lot of people nowadays don’t understand, don’t you think opened the door to better government in the state? GRIMES: Oh, absolutely I was a strong opponent of the county unit system when I was at Georgia Some of my editorials as editor of the Red and Black were against the county unit system, because it just seemed to me it wasn’t fair And, of course, we had a lot of cases where — well, it wasn’t so much that we had a lot of cases where the person who got the fewest votes won, although that did happen in 1946 when Gene Talmadge got fewer votes than the guy he was running against SHORT: Jimmy Carmichael GRIMES: Jimmy Carmichael But most of the time it was because the county unit system gave people who only got 35, 40 percent of the vote, they were the winners I think that was the case with Marvin Griffin when he ran Because that only applied to Democratic primaries, the county unit system did Talmadge twice tried to get that put into the constitution to apply to the general election, and it was defeated, actually, in Georgia And, of course, while it cleared the way for Sanders to win, actually, he would have won anyway He carried the county unit system Maddox would have won heavily had it been on the county unit basis in 1966 But anyway, he went on to become a fairly acceptable governor, I guess And Bo Callaway finally moved to Colorado, and then came back And I see him quite often now at Callaway Gardens He lives there now SHORT: In Chipley GRIMES: Well, Pine Mountain they call it now SHORT: Chipley GRIMES: Yeah SHORT: Still Chipley to me GRIMES: Yeah I wish they hadn’t changed the name, because it’s confusing with Pine Mountain Valley, not to mention the mountain And some places around there are still called Chipley SHORT: I’d like to ask you this question GRIMES: All right SHORT: Do you think there’s more or less interest in today’s newspapers in investigative reporting? GRIMES: Well, I haven’t noticed that there is Atlanta still does a lot

Columbus does some The paper up here in Jefferson does quite a bit I think it’s difficult for small papers to devote the resources and so forth, depending on what the investigation is I think if we can report the news, which is what we try to do, and report what’s going on, sometimes that almost feels like investigative reporting We had a situation in Greenville, Georgia, recently in which the guy elected mayor was not living there And we brought that out and took a picture of this mobile home that he had as his address, which was obviously abandoned And I don’t know — they finally put a judge in charge of the county — of the town And he’s mayor now, and he claims he lives there But he really, I think, doesn’t That was not really investigative reporting What we do is try to bring out what’s happening And we have a little paper in Talbot County, which is certainly one of the smallest counties in Georgia You remember Talbot County, the Henry Jurden — Jordan and persons SHORT: Yeah GRIMES: They were from Talbot County And there was another prominent family And the Strausses were from there, who founded Macy’s department store And they have just, in this election, elected the first black sheriff and the first black probate judge in Talbot County, even though it’s about 80 percent black And so coming into this year, we’ll have a black judge and a black sheriff for the first time in Talbot County SHORT: Speaking of that, how did you treat the civil rights movement from a news standpoint in your newspapers? GRIMES: Well, in Columbus, we had a real strong family ownership, the Chapmans and the Ashworths, during all the years I worked at the Columbus paper It was later sold to Knight Ridder I think they had real good newspapers because they wanted real good newspapers But I would have to say we mainly covered it by ignoring it During the 1960s, we did not play up civil rights commotions around And we were kind of like the eye of the storm Not only Georgia, but Columbus, in particularly, to my knowledge never had a riot, never had any problems And I don’t think that it was strictly because of the newspapers, but we didn’t have many problems They integrated the schools In fact, my children were in the first wave of integrated schools in Columbus And I think Columbus probably has more problems now than it did then But we did not play it up big And I’ll never forget the first time a black couple brought in an engagement and wanted to run it, a wedding The publisher was really against it So we finally ran it, but we didn’t run it in the society section We ran it back in the grocery section, I think, and they got real upset I don’t know He was an old-time Southern publisher And we forget how — well, not very easily But most of the people were, of course, strongly segregationist We didn’t run high school sports on blacks And we’ve all changed Now we can’t hardly get any whites in SHORT: What happened, do you think, that changed that attitude? GRIMES: I don’t know I don’t know that the attitude changed so much as the circumstances had to, both from a business standpoint and a rights standpoint, I guess, and a readership standpoint We forget We say newspapers are in dire circumstances today, and to some extent they are But we never had blanket readership, because the blacks didn’t read the newspapers down in the 50s and the 60s

And that was true for Atlanta and Columbus Even though they were a huge — I’d say a third of the population, we didn’t run any news that appealed to them We didn’t, like I say, run the sports The only thing we ran about blacks, frankly, was crime Maybe church news, obituaries, which were carefully segregated But it was 40 years ago We forget how much that has changed But today, I think our weekly newspapers run more about blacks in those counties than we do about whites, including social events and so forth and pictures And they got mad with us, one guy, the county commissioner, because we didn’t run a banner story about Obama winning the presidency But we don’t run — we didn’t run one when Bush won In fact, I don’t think we even ran one when Roosevelt one, although he lived there in Meriwether County, so to speak That’s just not what weekly newspapers do I mean, we ran how it ran in Meriwether County, Obama and McCain Interestingly, Obama carried Meriwether County, slightly And going back, I think, perhaps the Roosevelt influence is still strong in Meriwether County Democrats have remained pretty dominant there SHORT: Did you visit any with President Roosevelt when he came to Warm Springs? GRIMES: No No, I was just a child then But I was always sort of a Roosevelt historian, I guess you’d say And I’ve always been proud of the fact that we have a paper there and promote Warm Springs and promote the historic role that Warm Springs played Just a few weeks ago, I carried a friend of mine out on Dowdell’s Knob there in Meriwether County, which is where Roosevelt looked out over Pine Mountain Valley and where he went the day before he died to look out over the valley And the grill that he used is still there And there’s a statue there of him now that was dedicated just last year, if you haven’t seen it, that overlooks the valley SHORT: Mm-hm Let’s talk a minute about party politics in Georgia How long do you think the Republican Party will be able to continue its dominance in the state of Georgia? GRIMES: Well, I don’t know I think it still depends a lot on individuals Right now, if you want to win an office in Georgia, in a lot of places you figure you’ve got to run as a Republican For many years we know that it was true that if people wanted to win an office, they ran as a Democrat, no matter how they felt at the national level or at the state level And at the state level, issues didn’t break down along party lines I don’t know if they do now Well, they make them As I said, I was a strong supporter of the two-party system But I’m not sure now that one-party politics doesn’t work better, because you don’t have these conflicts develop as easily over issues that really aren’t issues, but become party issues And I think the Republicans have gotten to squabbling among themselves about who’s going to run next year So I don’t know We may develop a real two-party system We’ve sort of gotten away from — we almost went back to the one-party system with Republicans being the party Last time what did Perdue get? About 60 percent, 65 percent of the vote And mainly because blacks still vote heavily Democratic, and I think they will continue to I assume Hispanics will continue to vote Democratic Counties change so drastically Rockdale County, which, like I said, we owned the newspaper there, for 17 years operated it It has changed from being solidly Democratic, when we bought the newspaper, to solidly Republican,

and it’s almost back again to being Democratic, because blacks, now, make up something like almost 50 percent of the population And when I had the newspaper there, it was about 90 percent white And that does affect politics We can’t get away from the fact that they’re a very strong influence on politics SHORT: Many disenchanted Democrats feel the Georgia is too urban and too dependent on minorities and labor Do you think that’s true? GRIMES: Well, yeah I think that that’s why the Democrats need to nominate somebody from below Macon for governor who can help them pull rural votes Because they’re going to get the urban vote, now, around Atlanta, and that’s a heavy vote But if you looked at the last election last month, or November, it’s rural counties below Macon and up in the mountains that vote so heavily Republican And so I think they’ve got to get somebody who can pull votes down in the southern part of the state, because we’re still a very — we’re not only party line voters; we’re regional — it’s always been a very regional basis for the vote And I think a guy like Dubose Porter might be able to win a statewide race if he ever runs SHORT: Getting back to newspapering, what effect has television had on the newspapers? And the Internet, has that affected circulation? GRIMES: Well, yeah, obviously I mean, Atlanta’s pulled back Columbus was pulled back You can’t even get an Atlanta paper now in Harris County, down there where I spend a lot of time And I actually hate starting the day without an Atlanta paper, although sometimes I get upset at various things About the way they cover news, not their positions, and about the way they — I feel that, obviously, newspapers face a challenge to their very existence right now Actually, when I got out of college, people were saying that, because television had just begun carrying news And they said, “Well, this is going to mean the end of newspapers.” But it wasn’t It was the beginning, as I said, of the golden age And right now, young people don’t read newspapers My children don’t read newspapers, and they were raised in the business So I don’t know where we’re heading in the newspaper business I’ve been in large dailies, fairly large, small dailies and in weeklies I think weeklies still have a pretty good niche And I think that’s the key for newspapers, is to maintain a niche in the market for media, just as radio has managed to do, and as a lot of magazines have managed to do I think newspapers used to feel like they had to be the dominant media, that everybody had to take it And that’s not going to happen anymore But what they’ve got to do is aim at the market they can serve and the role they can fill and can sell advertisers on I mean, advertizing still pays the way for all these media But the Columbus papers and the Atlanta papers did something last week that I thought was really dumb, and that was increase their price We don’t get much money out of circulation in the newspaper business What we really want is circulation Well, when you go up a quarter from 50 cents, as Columbus did, that’s a 50 percent increase It may not seem like much, but, I mean, it makes a difference I know when sometimes I’m trying to buy a paper on a rack, I might not have but two quarters or three quarters when it’s a dollar Back in the old days, of course, when I was first coming along, like I said, newspapers were a nickel or a dime, because we were a mass media We’ve got to realize there’s other media out there Television, Internet, they are considered free by most people So I think we’ve got to hold down our costs

The newspapers got accustomed to such high profit margins These groups, they had these plans, and they did make way too high of profit margins If you pick up your Sunday Journal Constitution, though, if you can pick it up, it’s still hard to pick up, because it carries so many inserts The same way is true of Athens and lots of other papers Even a little paper like our Manchester Star-Mercury averages about six inserts a week, and that’s in a county that hardly has any stores in it It really doesn’t So newspapers still have a function, but it’s to carry inserts and hopefully get a few other ads, and tell people we still are the only medium that tells people who got born, who died, who won the homecoming queen crown, who won the local football game and who scored the winning touchdown So from birth to death, it’s the little incidents that weekly newspapers can still carry, and a lot of dailies But we’ve got to get away from charging too much, I think, to remain a mass media And there’s just a lot of competition out there, and we’ve got to try to make sure we’re one of the competitors, the newspaper business SHORT: Can you see any way to encourage young people to read newspapers more? GRIMES: Well, I guess — as I said, I get discouraged watching my own children and grandchildren And I think they do look at sports still Sports is one thing they seem to still go to the newspaper for But you don’t get that much sports off television Even when it carries a game, you don’t know exactly what happens You don’t know who the leading ground-gainer was I was watching the Tech-Georgia game last night in basketball, but I still didn’t know who the leading scorer was or anything about — if you want to know the details, you’ve got to look in the newspaper the next day And I know my daughters, they look for stuff about their children If there’s something about their children, it’s still real important My grandson is a pitcher for the Norcross High team And I used to drive over to Winder in the mornings to pick up a Gwinnett paper to see what they had about the games he pitched And I’m sure that people still do look for items in the newspaper about events they were involved with It’s hard to get that kind of stuff off the Internet or off television So this probably isn’t what they teach in journalism college, but that is what we’ve got to become And we can also — we still cover all the county commission meetings, the school board meetings that nobody else is at And we’ve just got to make that kind of news more relevant to the reader on what the county commission is doing, because you can sit through a long session and not get much So I’m optimistic a little bit that we can continue being a niche provider of information But can we keep selling ads to the people? That’s a big issue Because our main advertisers through the years as newspapers were grocery stores, which we no longer have; retail stores, which are fading out; and automobile dealers, which had a terrible year, and real estate All four of those areas are hurting right now Walmart kind of killed the retail business, because they don’t advertise much And they showed retailers they didn’t have to advertise to be successful And so about all retailers run now are inserts We’d come to rely a lot on auto dealers They were kind of the new supermarkets And then last year they had a terrible year And I just don’t know If they come back, maybe it’ll help us SHORT: You mentioned magazines, which brings up the Georgia Trend GRIMES: Yeah SHORT: Tell us about the Georgia Trend GRIMES: Well, after I got out of Opelika-Auburn News, as I said, we mainly ran these suburban dailies during the 1980s

And then in 1991 — I’d always really loved magazines As I said, when I was a kid, buying comic books and science fiction magazines is what really got me interested in writing And so I’d always thought, “If I could ever get a magazine, that’d be great.” And Georgia Trend, when it first started, was started by Gene Patterson when he worked on the St. Petersburg Times And they had a Florida Trend, and it was a business and political magazine Well, the recession of the early 90s was very hard on print media I was reading an article yesterday which finally compared the recessions of the post-war era And the one in the early 90s was pretty bad I don’t think a lot of folks realized how bad it was We did in the newspaper business Because, I know in Rockdale County, we had never had a year in which we did not do more business than we’d done the year before until 1990 And the magazine trade got hit very by it, the Atlanta magazine, Georgia Trend Anyway, St. Pete decided to sell its magazines So we got Georgia Trend in a pretty good deal But, I mean, it was like losing about a million dollars a year, so you had to kind of act fast But it was in this tower in downtown Atlanta It was great, the Atlanta Gaslight Tower at Peachtree Center We had an office up there on the top floor, and you could almost reach out and touch the blue dome there on the Hyatt Regency And I really enjoyed — it was the highlight of my career, almost, was running Georgia Trend And we later moved it — well, we moved out to Norcross to an office, but we also had an office here, which is where we actually put it out It was in Athens, because I lived here and I didn’t want to move So we had an Atlanta office, but we actually put Georgia Trend out here in Athens And I thought it was a great opportunity to tell stories about Georgia that I had not been — I did have another magazine, Georgia Journal, it was called You may remember And it focused on tourism and gardens and towns And it was very popular with some people, but not enough And you couldn’t get ads for it But you could sell ads in Georgia Trend, because it went to — we mailed it to everybody in tourism and government and CEOs and so forth If they just asked for it, they got it So that was the way you had circulation And you had about 50,000 of the key people And it had a lot of features folks still like, like Top 100 and the Georgian of the Year So it was a lot of fun And I got Bill Shipp to come over from Atlanta magazine and write a column Bill was never involved in production, but he did write a column every week And we had some terrific photographers, which I think were very important But I sort of burned out, because I wanted the magazine to be a certain way And so I think I kind of burned out trying to do much on it, writing every headline, every cutline But my children worked with me on it, two of them did, and what a great experience And I thought they wrote some great stories, like I said, the one on Carl Sanders And I remember one article Jim Minter wrote for us called “Is Henry County the Next Gwinnett?” And actually, that was in 1992, and it did become the next Gwinnett, almost Not quite I think it’s on its way to becoming what Gwinnett is becoming now And we did an article on Vandiver later on and his role, which was very important He was still bitter with Carter for not appointing him to the Senate when Russell died And I did a series on Bo Callaway and how he ran for governor, his life, both in tourism and in politics, which I’ve got a little booklet of I’d like to give you But, in any case, we managed to write it up I mean, it became a strong advertising medium during the 90s as the economy improved

And then, after we sold Georgia Trend back to the people we’d sold our south metro Atlanta papers to, Neil Young and Tom Cousins, 10 years ago, 1999 I’ve got these little weeklies down around there where Charlotte, my wife, and I had grown up And that’s what we’ve done for 10 years, and it’s been sort of a tough road SHORT: I imagine you stay pretty busy with that number of weekly newspapers GRIMES: Well, not real busy Because I’m here I’m in Athens I live in Athens, and they’re all 140 miles away So you don’t have to be quite as involved, but I’m pretty involved with them SHORT: Well, you’ve certainly had a brilliant career You’ve also introduced some people into journalism, Lewis Grizzard GRIMES: Yeah SHORT: Tell us about Lewis GRIMES: Well, Lewis was a sports writer on the Athens Banner-Herald when a couple of guys and I got this idea to start a paper here in Athens back in 1965 Glenn Vaughn and Claude Williams were the main — well, they turned out to be the main people But I went to Claude, who had a little weekly here, and asked him about what he thought about turning it into a daily and challenging the Banner-Herald, which at that time was a fairly weak newspaper And we knew it was going to be sold, because the person who owned it had died and it was in his estate and had to be sold by the end of the year, in 1965 And about the only thing I did for that paper, except kind of give them the idea — I was still in Columbus at that time I was editor of the paper in Columbus — was hire the sports editor of the Banner-Herald, which was a guy named Wade Saye So we felt like, “Hey, if we have a really good sports editor and section That will give us a start.” I think Wade was making like 60 dollars a week, and so we offered him 70 He said he’d come if he could bring this intern he had, and that was Lewis Grizzard So that’s how Lewis came to the Athens Daily News And in his book, If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, he recounts his experiences on the Daily News, which he remembered very fondly, in particular Glenn Vaughn, who came up and was the publisher Glenn was in Columbus with me at that time If I decided I couldn’t come, he came SHORT: Rheta Grimsley Johnson GRIMES: Yeah I remember Rheta when she was still here writing for the Journal-Constitution She worked for the Opelika-Auburn News while she was a student at Auburn Met her husband there He was working as an assistant sports editor, Johnson And Rheta was a great columnist, even when she was very young, and went on to become a — she’s still a columnist for Scripps Howard, I believe SHORT: Mm-hm Yes, she is GRIMES: But I have not seen Rheta in several years SHORT: If someone asked you for suggestions for a young journalist who is just beginning a career, what would you tell them? GRIMES: Well, I don’t know I might tell them to try to get into the electronic media some way Because it’s a hard — well, I won’t say it’s a hard job It’s difficult in a way, although I feel very fortunate to have been in a position in the media for so many years There’s no heavy lifting, as we say And you usually get to stay out of the hot and cold, unless you get sent to one of these foreign assignments But it can be long hours It kind of depends on the individual I’ve had people who worked 12 hours a day and others that worked four or five and do the same amount of work Some people just get married to the job and like going there I think newspapers, as I said, have a niche role to play There’s also magazines, which most newspapers are now putting out magazines It’s amazing to me how many magazines they’re selling, have sprung up in the last few years

That was a lot when I was in the magazine business back in the 90s But Mark Smith, who used to be here in Athens as a publisher and worked for Morris for many years, his father, his family owned the paper in Eatonton And Mark took it over when he retired from Morris and has done a great job of expanding it into the Lake Oconee community And he puts out two or three magazines and puts them in there He has a real estate health magazine and then a regular magazine And the Newnan paper puts out two magazines, I think, and Columbus puts one out It’s real funny Everybody puts one out now except Atlanta, which started the newspaper magazine business many years ago I was looking at these questions you sent me about great experiences, achievements, disappointments — I guess I’m mainly a news journalist, I guess you’d say, and so I enjoy that part of it But my greatest achievement undoubtedly was in Opelika, where we increased everything so much I think there was a lot of luck involved By going into Auburn, we became a border-based paper And then somebody opened a big shopping mall between Opelika and Auburn, and that always helps when you’re a publisher And, of course, I had two great circulation people One of them was a real good friend of Rheta Grimsley Johnson, in fact They managed to get our circulation just expanded all of a sudden — and back in those days you could do that — into the Valley and into the surrounding area And I think my greatest disappointment is that I haven’t been able to develop a successor I have three children, two of whom have worked in the business But I don’t know whether they’re going to be able to be a successor, and I haven’t been able to find any people that work for me I think you need a good business type And most of the successful papers of other companies have had that I’ve never had a really great business type And I’m sure that’s hurt our company We’re probably poorer today because of it But newspapers took a real hit during the past year, as did a lot of companies And we’ve just got to hope for the whole nation and world’s sake that 2009 is going to be a better year some ways And I’m 78 years old As I said, I was born just a few months after the Great Depression started Looks like I’ll be going out that way SHORT: Well, let’s hope not Millard Grimes, a great journalist, a great Georgian, I’d like to thank you on behalf of the Richard Russell Library, the University of Georgia and myself for being with us today GRIMES: Well, thank you, Bob And I really enjoyed it And I appreciate you asking me [END OF RECORDING]