Kimbro, Cox families boast 5 generations of publishing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Kimbro and Cox families who were featured in the past three columns have an amazing association with publishing local newspapers, so it seems timely to review some of the history of this industry as it evolved in Covington County.

Five generations of the Kimbro family have been publishing local newspapers for more than 100 years, and at present, the youngest two generations remain very much involved in the business.

These individuals will be identified in the following historical account of newspaper publishing in the area.

In the first column written on the Cox family, the outstanding record of the Cox family’s 137 consecutive annual reunions was reported.

However, we have been advised that the local William Booth family has an even longer history.

Harlan Booth reported that the reunion was organized in August 1864, and there has been one held each year since that date on the fourth Sunday in August.

The 2012 reunion will be the 148th one. It is always good to learn of new information and share that with the readers of this column.

The next Booth family reunion is scheduled for Aug. 26, 2012, at the Samson Community Center in Samson.

The newspaper publishing industry has had immeasurable impact on the development and growth of the towns and rural areas of Covington County.

Available records indicate the first paper to be published in the area was The Covington Times.

A copy of the issue published on Nov. 11, 1886, in Andalusia was found in the personal files of Miss Allen Robinson of Route Four, Andalusia.

The editor of this paper is not known at this time.

There were a number of advertisements in the above issue that reveal well-known family names from the area: Tillis & O’Neal’s general merchandize; S.E. Thomas and Company, dry goods with a special ladies’ millinery department; Malachi Riley & Cyrus O’Neal, real estate; W.C. O’Neal & Company, dry goods store in Gantt; R.E. Crumpler, the Ruby Bar; James Stewart’s blacksmith shop; and Alvin Clayton opening a new restaurant.

During the early years, all the newspapers were from handset type.

Some were printed on presses such as the Washington Hand Press, Country Campbell and others with drum cylinders.

The process was certainly much slower and tedious than the modern printing processes.

Although identifying the many changes in the processing and printing is not expedient, a brief outline of the various local newspapers published during the early yeas and until circa 1950 will be presented.

In Andalusia, the next paper to appear was The County Paper, which was edited by W.H. Jones who later served several years as Clerk of Covington County Court.

This paper was of 16 column pages with no advertisements.

All reading material was considered “canned news” written by individuals out of state, and each issue sold for 50 cents.

Then in 1900, W.J. Peters & Co. published The Covington Enterpriser.

In 1901, publishers A.B. Metcalf and A.L. Snead began publishing The Christian Worker.

Also about this time, Walter “Love” Howell and his father, Walter P. Howell along with A.R. Powell published a local paper, and their office was located on South Court Square in the building that was later occupied by Christo’s 5 & 10. In 1904, W.B. Gilmer and C.B. Rencher published a few issues of The Southern Immigrant.

During the early 1900s, Edward E. Doty began publishing The Andalusia Star in a shop located in back portion of the Bank of Andalusia on the NE corner of Court Square.

He soon sold it to Oscar M. Duggar of Greenville, Tenn., who later sold half interest to “Red” Coffee of West Point, Ga. Doty later bought back Coffee’s interest and sometime later sold the paper to Byron Vickery, W.B. Locke and A.G. Jones. Circa 1915, E.W. Grant established The Andalusia Standard, which was located in the Andalusia Opera House on the corner of Pear and South Three-Notch Streets. The building was soon destroyed by fire, and the paper was never re-established.

In 1923, The Covington News was begun with Col. Allen Crenshaw as editor, and W.R. Cratwell was business manager.

The paper changed hands several times with Mark Tucker as editor in 1926, Christopher Wilson in 1927-28, George Whaley in 1929-1930, W.H. Jones in 1930-36 and Joe Jones from 1930-48. In 1948, The Andalusia Star and The Covington News were merged into The Andalusia Star-News with Ed Dannelly as editor, Byron Vickery as business manager and Ed Richburg and A.G. Jones as shop superintendents.

Dannelly and Vickery later bought the interests of Jones and Richburg.

When Dannelly retired, Jim Lambert and Jim Boone purchased the paper with Lambert as editor.

In Opp, the first paper was published in 1901 by W.R. Henderson who was also editor. In 1903-1904, the paper was known as The Opp Harvester.

In 1904-1906, The Opp Homespun was published by Henderson & Henderson.

In 1907-1908, E.E. Johnston edited and published The Opp Era.

From 1917-1924, E.E. Johnston published The Opp Messenger.

This paper was purchased in 1924 by Gus Bryan who renamed it Opp Weekly News.

He soon sold part interest to A.R. Woodham who was the first postmaster in Opp.

Bryan bought the first linotype called an International Model X and hired Doc Schofield to operate it.

He then purchased the first automatic press for printing the paper.

In 1925, Bryan and Woodham sold the paper to J.L. Kimbro who operated it for 10 years.

In 1935, Wilford Benson bought the paper and ran it for a short time before selling it to Bill Fredrick who ran it a few months.

He then sold it back to Bryan.

In 1941, R.D. Burgess bought the paper and operated it until his retirement many years later.

There is some evidence that there were probably three newspapers published in Florala before 1900.

It appears The Interstate Appeal was established circa 1896 with Homer J. Mitchell as owner-publisher. There is evidence of a 1904 edition of The Gazette, Vol. 8, No. 38, with W.T. “Bill” Maypole who was regarded as a “colorful newspaper man” as editor and publisher.

In 1898, The Gazette and The Inter-State Appeal were consolidated and then with The Citizen in 1899.

They were joined by The Mail & Express of Graceville and The Our Highland Home of Laurel Hill, Fla. in 1899.

The Florala News was organized in 1900. W.C. McLaughlin was owner-publisher from 1906 to 1913 when J.J. Lamar bought it and became publisher with W.L. Howell as editor.

They changed the name to The Florala Weekly News. In 1909, The Florala Democrat was established by W.S. Harlan who published it until 1913.

At that time J.J. Lamar purchased and merged it with The Florala News and changed the name to The Florala News Democrat.

He served as editor, Oscar R. Smith as associate editor and W.L. Howell as manager. From 1915-1917 D.A. McPhail owned The Florala News until N.L. Lillard took over and called it The Florala News-Democrat.

In 1919, W. L. Howell bought the paper and renamed it The Florala News.

In 1921 the Kimbro family began their extended ownership when Jessie K. Kimbro bought one half interest in the paper with Howell.

During the next year, Kimbro’s brother-in-law, A.H. Heath bought Howell’s interest.

Heath then purchased Kimbro’s interest in 1924, and Kimbro moved to Opp where he purchased The Opp News.

Heath continued to own and publish The Florala News with the assistance of his brother, Charles Heath.

Then A.H. Heath’s niece, Lucille (Kimbro) McRae Woodham’s husband, Benjamin Stuart Woodham, of Opp went to Florala to work with the Heaths.

The Woodhams later bought the paper, and Benjamin was owner-publisher until his death in 1958. At that time, Lucille became publisher until 1973 at which time their son, Larry K. Woodham, and his wife, Laura Merle (Parker), purchased The Florala News, a paper with which the Kimbro family has been associated for more than 100 years.

Other relatives were involved in newspaper publishing in near by towns. Lucille’s nephew, John Ferrin Cox Jr., purchased The Elba Clipper in 1970 and later bought The Graceville News. He continues to be active in the management of both papers. And Cox’s daughter, Michele (Cox) Gerlach, is the current publisher of The Andalusia Star-News.

Larry and Merle Woodham later purchased The DeFuniak Springs Herald-Breeze, Holmes County Advertiser in Bonifay, Washington County Post in Chipley and the Beach-Bay News in Panama City. The Herald Breeze is now owned by the Woodhams’ children: Gary Benjamin, Sherry W. Strickland, Cynthia W. Pinkston and Sonya Woodham. The son, Gary, is the current publisher and President of the Herald-Breeze Corporation, so the Kimbro legacy in newspaper publishing continues to thrive.

Sources for this writing include the following: Gus and Ruby Bryan’s Covington County History, 1821-1976; a story written by Merle Woodham and posted on a Florala history web site, and Kimbro family records.

Anyone who might have any corrections to the above or additional information to these families or the history of newspaper publishing in Covington County is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email: