The Daily Journal and Tupelo celebrate 140th anniversaries this year, telling a remarkable story of both constructive tension and civic partnerships leading to steady progress that embraces all of Lee County and the larger region.
In 1970, when Tupelo and the Journal both turned 100, that unique milestone inspired wide celebration, remembrance and visioning for the second century.
Now, at 140, the city, the larger community and the newspaper all look to the rest of the second century in the context of a new millennium and changes in knowledge, information, technology, manufacturing, financial services, health care, retailing, transportation, entertainment and a pace of change unimaginable only 40 years ago.
The methods, application and scope of work for progress have changed with the decades and the globalization of the economy, but the principles used by Tupelo’s leadership – consistently including the Journal’s executive leader – remain based on enduring ideas that never have failed.
In 1970, George McLean, the owner and publisher of the Journal, spoke to the Community Development Foundation – which he had helped establish 22 years earlier – about the second 100 years.
McLean died in 1983, and his determination to keep the Journal locally owned was realized through the CREATE Foundation, but his 1970 speech to members of CDF could have been delivered last week because the community’s methods – and the Journal’s goals – endure.
McLean’s “Basic Principles” started with the most obvious and necessary one: teamwork.
He expanded the idea by saying there have been no “prima donnas” in the community development field – and “no dictators.”
Teamwork, collaboration and partnership won’t work with self-serving leaders.
“As someone has said the people of Tupelo may argue and scrap on private matters but when the welfare of the community is involved they pull together. …. The principle of local business firms and individuals contributing substantial sums of money, time and talent for the public good has characterized Tupelo citizens ever since the town was chartered,” McLean said.
He also stressed the necessity of regionalism and cooperation within Lee County, citing the Council of Governments, a still-strong countywide intragovernmental organization, mutually working through issues and for common goals.
He reminded the audience, as do today’s Tupelo and regional leaders, that the idea of a larger regionalism dates to the 1920s.
Today’s PUL Alliance (Toyota) and similar peer alliances in the region are directly linked to the plans and practices started early in the 20th century – almost 100 years ago.
And on race relations, McLean enunciated a stark fact: “As a newcomer to Tupelo (1934), I well recall elected officials sitting down with representative black and white citizens and discussing mutual problems and mutual responsibilities many years ago. There is need for such action today. When leaders do not lead – when they avoid their responsibilities and do not take the sensible steps that they should take, then resentment and pressure build up.”
Each time Tupelo has forgotten that necessity it has found itself in distress.
When leadership has acted, problems have been resolved.
In summing up, McLean challenged that centennial audience to understand what Tupelo must always strive to become, and fortunately it’s heard in today’s mayor and City Council and civic leadership: “A city of excellence is based on the quality of the lives of all its people.”
The Journal remains committed to that idea for Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi.
NEMS Daily Journal