Editor's note: The Telegraph is celebrating its 185th birthday Tuesday. Macon’s oldest business began operating Nov. 1, 1826. In honor of the anniversary, Telegraph columnist Ed Grisamore has compiled 185 nuggets about the newspaper — from the people who have worked here to the events that have shaped our history and legacy. The six-part series concludes Sunday.
In an era when women were mostly limited to writing newspaper stories about fashion and food, Susan Myrick was anything but a Lazy Susan. She was an advice columnist, travel writer, farm editor, magazine editor, associate editor and public relations director. She even served as “war editor” during World War II, helping with salvage campaigns, Red Cross drives and more. Born in Milledgeville, she came to Macon as a physical education teacher at Lanier High for Girls. She began submitting short feature articles for The Telegraph and, beginning in 1928, wrote an advice column for the lovelorn called “Life in a Tangle.” She wrote under the nom de plume Fannie Squeers.
In her role as farm editor, Myrick was considered a pioneer in soil conservation. She advocated blue lupine as a winter cover crop to help stop erosion. Agriculturists in Dooly County named her “Bloomin’ Lupine Queen” for her efforts.
Myrick is best known for her eight months working as a technical adviser for the movie production of “Gone With the Wind” in 1939. She had befriended author Margaret Mitchell at a Georgia Press Institute meeting in Macon 11 years earlier. Mitchell sought her help out of concern for what Hollywood might do to the script. Myrick worked on the movie as a “dialect coach” as well as the “arbiter of manners and customs.” She sent home 58 columns from her experiences in California, and they were printed in The Telegraph. Later, they were compiled in a book, “White Columns in Hollywood,” published by Mercer University Press in 1982, four years after her death.
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Bill Boyd was the name and the face of the newspaper for the 21 years he wrote a column on the Local & State page from 1977-98. He wrote more than 3,500 columns, mostly about everyday people who usually got their names in the newspaper only when they were “born, married or died.” He was hired as a photojournalist in 1973, covered sports and was state news editor. Boyd was the author of five books, hosted a party each October for people 75 years old and over, and was a popular speaker in Macon and across Middle Georgia.
At the start of the Civil War in 1861, nine of the paper’s 20 employees were called into military service. During the next four years, the newspaper’s staff was so often so depleted that Joseph Clisby not only performed the duties of editor, but also typesetter and printer. During the war, Clisby helped establish a Confederate version of the wire services in order to obtain accurate information from the battlefield.
Publication of The Telegraph was suspended for three weeks in 1865 when Gen. James Wilson and the Union troops occupied Macon at the end of the war. They took control of Clisby’s house, and Wilson established his headquarters there. When the troops occupied the city, it was reported that they “found some liquor, which they used freely, then went to the Telegraph offices and mixed up type so thoroughly that no paper could be printed.” The press was shut down from April 20 to May 11, 1865, although some brave printers managed to covertly publish several editions.
Sometimes known as “Mr. Macon News,” Editor Joe Parham’s writing career spanned nearly 40 years. He wrote more than 6,000 columns and was recognized by the Georgia Press Association as having the “Best Daily Newspaper Column” an unprecedented four straight years in the 1970s. A book of his columns, “What Is In My Heart,” was published posthumously in 1981.
Parham, who was editor of the News from 1949 until his death in 1980, loved to tell the story of being hired as a cub reporter in September 1941. Three months later, he was working on a story on a Sunday afternoon in the office on Cherry Street when an editor walked in and asked him if anything was going on. “No, sir,” he told him. “Quietest Sunday I ever saw, but there have been a lot of bells ringing in that little (wire) room.” It was Dec. 7, 1941, and Japanese planes had bombed Pearl Harbor. Said Parham: “I may be the only reporter who didn’t realize World War II was news.”
A 1950 Christmas issue of The Macon News won an Associated Press feature award after it contained nothing but good news, not even obituaries.
The first sports story appeared on Feb. 10, 1860, when Editor William Littlepage (a great name for a writer) covered a local baseball game played by a team known as the Macon Olympic Club.
The Telegraph launched a 28-page weekly section on Sept. 10, 1985, called Bibb Neighbors. It was filled with community news and photographs, birth announcements, military news, poetry submissions, advice columns and a pet page. Emily Cook was editor of the section. A Houston/Peach Neighbors followed.
The annual Labor Day Road Race, which was run for the 35th time in September, was the brainchild of former Telegraph Sports Editor Danny Thom in 1977. For many years, the Telegraph & News was the primary sponsor of the race, along with the Macon Tracks running club.
Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote nine guest columns in April and May 1925 while he was staying at an inn in Warm Springs owned by former Telegraph columnist Tom Loyless. FDR had unsuccessfully run as vice president on the Democratic ticket with James Cox of Ohio, who was defeated by Warren Harding. Roosevelt made regular trips to Warm Springs after he contracted polio in 1921. He went on to serve as governor of New York from 1929-32 and was elected president in 1933. He died in 1945 while still in office.
Carol Hudler was named the first female publisher in the Telegraph’s history in September 1995. She, in turn, was followed by two others, Jeanie Enyart and P.J. Browning. Hudler is now publisher of The Tennessean in Nashville.
On Feb. 10, 1973, The Telegraph had a headline that hasn’t been printed before or since. After the city had a record 16.5 inches of snow, the headline read: “Macon Struggles To Regain Footing After Record-Setting 16-Inch Snow.” On Sunday, the papers published a 16-page special section with 49 photographs of residents frolicking in the snow, as well as street scenes from around the area. The special issue was sealed in a copper box by the Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority as part of a time capsule to be opened in the year 2023.
In the 1870s, the Telegraph consisted of eight pages in a seven-column format and required 30 compositors to make it.
In September 1945, The Macon News became the first paper in the U.S. to use airplanes for delivery. The papers were flown to cities east of Macon, with drop points in Dublin, Eastman, Cochran, McRae, Cadwell, Rentz and Chauncey.
Oliver Hillhouse Prince Jr., who was owner and editor from 1845-47, was born on March 5, 1822. He was believed to have been the first white baby born on the side of the Ocmulgee River that would become known as Macon. His father, who practiced law in Macon, was a U.S. senator from Georgia and edited the Georgia Journal newspaper in the state capital of Milledgeville. (Prince Avenue in Athens is named after him.) Prince Sr. and his wife died in the wreck of a steamship at Ocracoke Inlet, N.C., on May 25, 1837, leaving Prince Jr. an orphan at age 12.
In 1886, President Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances, refused a wedding gift from The Macon Telegraph described as a “mammoth tupelo gum bread tray.” Cleveland was reportedly insulted by the gift and returned it.
In early years of the Telegraph, the paper would receive its out-of-town news a day late through the mail by rail or ship. Instant access to the news became possible in 1848 when an electric telegraph line from Washington to New Orleans -- at the time the longest in the world -- was built through Macon along what is known as the Old Wire Road (Georgia 208).
The first headline to run across the entire width of six columns was on Dec. 7, 1889. It read: PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS IS DEAD. HE SUFFERED FOR SOUTH. LET THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERATES MOURN.
Mamie Jemison Chestney (Mrs. Pierce Chestney) wrote under the pen names of Fannie Fairtall and Miss Gadda Boute in the 1920s and ’30s. She was editor of the Telegraph’s Parent-Teacher Association page and was the “moving picture” editor.
Chestney’s local involvement as president of the Macon Better Films Committee placed her on the national stage. In 1933, she was one of nine citizens from across the U.S. to appear before the Hays Commission in Washington, D.C. Testimony from that hearing led to the adoption of a “code” for rating films according to their suitability for viewers.
In the 1860s, The Telegraph was the first newspaper in Georgia to editorially propose the creation of an institute of technology, suggesting that it be located in Macon. During the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War, two former Confederate officers from Macon -- John Fletcher and Nathaniel Harris -- became advocates of the technology school to help the South compete with the industrial revolution in the North. Harris served as Macon’s city attorney for eight years before being elected to the state House of Representatives. He introduced the bill in the Georgia Legislature in 1885. Although it passed, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) was built in Atlanta instead of Macon. Harris was elected governor in 1915, the last governor born outside the state (Jonesboro, Tenn.)
John Boifeullet, an editor in 1920s, was a man of many hats. He worked at the American Embassy in London, served as secretary of the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee and was a member of Georgia Railroad Commission.
For almost seven years, The Telegraph ran a feature called Straight Talk, which allowed readers to call in anonymously and vent about anything and everything. It began on Feb. 28, 1994, and ended on Dec. 31, 2000. For the first six months, it appeared three days a week. Within six months of its debut, it became a daily feature. A total of 2,276 Straight Talk columns appeared, containing more than 45,500 reader contributions.
In 1920, Telegraph Associate Editor George H. Long was named dean of Mercer’s newly founded journalism school.
In 1887, Sol Hoge, a local druggist, sold cigars made in New York and advertised them as The Macon Telegraph Cigar. (So much for a no-smoking ordinance.)
On Nov. 3, 1985, the Telegraph & News sold 103,228 copies of its Sunday edition, marking the first time that a Georgia newspaper outside Atlanta had sold more than 100,000 copies of a Sunday edition. Billy Watson, then the paper’s general manager, announced the record at a celebration outside the newspaper’s offices at 120 Broadway. Watson dressed as a bumblebee for the occasion. He joined employees from the circulation department in walking three blocks to Cherry Street carrying a banner proclaiming the 100,000 milestone. He chose the bee because some engineers claim that aerodynamically, a bee shouldn’t be able to fly. “This was impossible, according to others, but we thought it could be done,” said Kaijer Lee, the newspaper’s former circulation manager.
Out & About, the popular Friday entertainment section, was introduced on Sept. 6, 1996. Dan Maley was the first editor. The first cover featured a clown from the Shrine Circus performing at the Macon Coliseum.