LLOYD GRAY: Old pages yield some lessons in the small type

The old Journal front pages that have appeared since the beginning of the year in our Thursday edition were selected in most cases for the historic significance of their banner headlines. As part of our 140th anniversary celebration, we’ve been seeing how news of great import – local, national and international – has been reported in the Daily Journal through the years.
But it’s also been intriguing to check out the news on the rest of the front page – and in bygone days they got a lot of it crammed in with the smaller type and a layout style that didn’t worry about visual niceties like white space.
Last Thursday’s big headline from Oct. 23, 1962, was about President Kennedy’s naval blockade of Cuba during the missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. But in the bottom corners of the page, among the 13 stories on the front that day, were two that caught my eye.
“People Must Develop Own Areas McLean Tells Coordinating Council,” read one of the headlines. “No Santa Claus” was the overline.
The story was about George McLean, the longtime Daily Journal owner and community leader, and in a few paragraphs reporting this one speech was a summary of his lifelong message about community development: There’s no Santa Claus, nobody’s going to come in here and do it for us, we’ve got to do it ourselves; programs and agencies should serve local communities, not the other way around, and local people must “sacrifice their time, money and effort” to get things done.
The other story on the opposite corner of the page read, “First Of Four Sessions Today On United Neighbors Fund Drive.” It was about local people sacrificing their time, money and effort for the good of the community. At the meeting, the story noted, chairman John A. “Red” Rasberry would outline that year’s campaign. Week before last, Red Rasberry passed away at 93, and his own idea of community service is encapsulated in the letter elsewhere on this page from his son.
Back to the McLean story. See if this sounds familiar: “It was pointed out (by McLean) that thousands of our young people in our rural areas are dropping out of school because they are not receiving the training they need for life. This means that thousands of young adults are going to be increasingly unemployed because they have never been trained for a skillful trade.” The greatest attraction for any industry to a community, McLean said, “is trained workers who are anxious to work and who will cooperate with management in producing quality products.”
The nature of educational and economic challenges evolves over time, 48 years in this case, but at its heart the challenge remains the same: Getting people educated and trained to compete in the modern economy. Northeast Mississippi all these years later is still fighting a high dropout rate and a large segment of undereducated and unskilled people in the population.
That the same educational and economic themes prevail today, albeit with different details in a different context, is not a reason for discouragement, but simply a reminder of the need for single-minded persistence – not to mention a lot of local people willing to “sacrifice their time, money and effort” to meet today’s challenges.
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One of those local people who always had the good of the community – including those on the margins – first in his mind was the Rev. Bill Smith, who died last week while playing in the Atlantic Ocean with his granddaughter.
Bill was retired after a long stint as director of missions for the Lee County Baptist Association and as a church pastor, but whenever there was an occasion that brought the community together to celebrate achievements and to contemplate challenges, he was there.
His Christianity was of a kind that evoked action on behalf of God’s people to break down barriers and improve lives. It’s been said that Bill Smith’s prayers at public events were more like mini-sermons, and I’ll never forget one – at a CDF event, I think – in which he implored God, in so many words, to help us lay aside our pious platitudes, get off our rear ends and do something for the good of others and the community. Now that was a prayer.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd.gray @djournal.com.

Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal