Sometime in the late summer, early fall of 1868, John W. Ward published the first newspaper in Greenville.
That first paper was the weekly Greenville Times, and now, through 150 years of floods, epidemics, booms, busts, growth and decline, it’s ancestor, today’s Delta Democrat-Times is celebrating its 150thyear in 2018.
While no copies of the first few years of the newspaper are known to still exist, The Library of Congress does have a digitized archive containing Greenville Times newspapers starting with Vol. 7 Edition No. 1 on Aug. 8 of 1874. If the numbers match up, that would put the founding date of the paper, as coincidentally, Aug. 8, 1868, but other volume and edition numbers don’t line up exactly to that date.
According to the final edition of the Daily Democrat-Times on Aug. 29, 1938, the paper was founded in July of 1868.
The paper’s second owner, who purchased it in 1869, was Confederate veteran Captain John Seymore McNeely.
McNeely was a co-owner of the state’s oldest newspaper, the Woodville Republican, before purchasing the Greenville Times. He was its owner and editor until 1892 and later went on to edit the Vicksburg Herald. He was also a part of the Mississippi Constitutional Convention in 1890. McNeely leased the Greenville Times to E.E. Bass, long-time superintendent of the Greenville Public Schools, for a year while he was at the constitutional convention.
The largest news event during McNeely’s tenure was the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. The newspaper covered the story by publishing on the front page the names of the people who died from yellow fever.
In the first days of the epidemic, the listed names covered half a column of newsprint. At the end, the list covered two and half pages.
After McNeely’s retirement, three men, T.T. Tillotson, a Mr. Buchanan and John R. McLendon operated the paper for a while until it was turned over to Louis T. Brawner.
When Brawner retired, Henry T. Crosby took over management. He was later to be involved in managing the Greenwood Commonwealth — not the last time the two newspapers would be connected.
The Times was changed from a semi-weekly to a Sunday morning paper and in 1906 became a morning daily.
Crosby died at his desk from a heart attack in 1917 while working on the next day’s newspaper.
The Times actually shuttered its doors for a year after Crosby’s death.
For a time, from 1888 until 1917, there were competing newspapers in Greenville. The Greenville Times and the Greenville Democrat.
After succession of fits and restarts, the Greenville Times was purchased by the Smith family to form the Daily Democrat-Times.
L. Pink Smith founded the Greenville Democrat in 1888 as a weekly newspaper and converted it to a daily newspaper on September 6, 1896. For 122 years, a daily newspaper has been published in Greenville without missing an edition. The paper even published a single page, broadsheet edition for several days during the 1927 flood.
Smith founded the newspaper on the cornerstones of “Community Welfare” and “A Clear Conscience.”
Smith’s son Ernest, succeeded him in 1926 after his passing.
In 1936, Hodding Carter Jr., with encouragement and backing from William Alexander Percy, started the daily newspaper the Delta Star. Percy was one of a handful of investors who brought Carter to Greenville after his newspaper in Hammond, Louisiana, faltered.
Carter operated the paper as an afternoon daily compared to the morning Daily Democrat-Times.
The Delta Star quickly surpassed the Daily Democrat-Times in both readership and editorial content.
One of Carter’s investors determined the Daily Democrat-Times was ready for a sale and, according to the book “Where Main Street Meets the Levee,” they paid the Smith family more than it was worth because, “The were from the Delta too.”
Interestingly, the final edition of the Daily Democrat-Times was perhaps its largest ever. The newspaper staff had prepared a special section celebration the 50thanniversary of Smith’s founding of his newspaper. There were more than 80 pages of content outlining histories of several aspects of Delta life. The section had to be rushed to press before the closing date of the sale so the Smith family could retain the income from the special section. The next day, the paper became the Delta Democrat-Times.
Carter and his wife Betty, and the combined staff of the two newspapers, operated the Delta Democrat-Times, the paper which still exists today.
The first staff of the Delta Democrat-Times included: Editor, Hodding Carter; Business Managers, Ernest Smith and Donald Weatherbee; Advertising Manager, Rodney Defenbaugh; Assistant, Jimmy Dunn; News Staff, Charles Kerg and Lillian McLaughlin; Circulation V. R. Jordan; Office Staff, Salvador Maucelli and Mrs. Electa Atcher; Engraving John Carter; Shop Foreman Ted Lovell; and Shop employees as on the Democrat-Times.
The DD-T, as it is often called, would be operated by the Carter family until 1980, when it was purchased by Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Reportedly, the paper sold for the highest dollar figure per subscriber to date.
During the Carter’s tenure, the paper had become perhaps the most liberal in the South and the company who purchased it was founded on strict Libertarianism.
From 1938-1980, the paper saw the highest honor possible bestowed on a journalist when Hodding Carter Jr. won the Pulitzer prize for editorial excellence in 1946.
The prize was for an editorial titled, “Go For Broke,” about Japanese Nissei soldiers serving in the European Theater of World War II.
The newspaper moved its operational facility from a location at the corner of Walnut and Main Street to its current location at 988 N. Broadway in 1968. At that time a new press was installed.
The paper changed hands again in 2003 when it was purchased by the three-generation, Mississippi family owned company, Emmerich Newspapers, Inc.
The Emmerich family operates daily newspapers in McComb and Greenwood as well as several weekly newspapers throughout the state.
The Delta Democrat-Times is not the oldest newspaper in the state. The Woodville Republican holds that title with an 1823 founding date. It’s not the oldest newspaper in the Delta either as the Clarksdale Press-Register was founded in 1865 and, on the edge of the Delta, the Charleston Sun-Sentinel was founded in 1856. It is the second oldest continually operated business in Greenville. The oldest is the Campbell Delong Law firm whose predecessor was found by the Percy family in 1861.