NTH Birthday: Newspaper's origin dates back to end of Civil WarBy W. WINSTON SKINNER
Coweta County’s local daily newspaper was formed through the combining of two older newspapers.
The Newnan Herald was a Coweta institution for 70 years before The Newnan Times was established. The papers were competitors for a decade before they were combined.
Soon after the first Herald hit the streets, Bigby — who became active in local politics — sold his interest in the paper to James A. Welch. Following the deaths of Welch and Wootten, the Herald was edited by A.B. Cates, a native of Tennessee and a Confederate veteran.
Cates ran the Herald until late 1886 or early 1887 when the Herald consolidated with the Coweta Advertiser, which had been published by W.W. Wadsworth, a Methodist minister.
After the merger of the Herald and Wadsworth’s journal, the newspaper became known as The Herald and Advertiser. James E. Brown, who later became known as Judge Brown after his appointment as a U.S. Commissioner, became editor. He served for four decades and was known for his insightful editorials.
Brown was born in Marion County in 1854. Before coming to Newnan, he founded the Henry County Weekly in 1877. “Coweta County Chronicles” related that Brown served as editor there until 1886 when he came to Newnan as editor of the Advertiser, coming to the Herald and Advertiser after the merger.
Brown married a Newnan woman, Kate Milner, in 1883.
In 1912, Brown sold the Herald and Advertiser to Rhodes McPhail “after having guided its fortunes for nearly 25 years,” according to “Chronicles.” The sale did not last, however. “The Herald people wanted James E. Brown and James E. Brown wanted to return to his accustomed place — which he did with Ellis M. Carpenter as an assistant,” the county history reported.
In 1915, the Herald and Advertiser absorbed another rival, the Newnan News, and the paper again became known as the Newnan Herald. “Chronicles” reported, “The owners of the News are part owners of the Herald, and the owners of the Herald happy to have devoured a troublesome rival.”
Among those serving as business manager during Brown’s tenure were Edgar T. Whatley, Thomas S. Parrott and Oren William Passavant. Passavant also served as editor in 1911 and 1912 in Brown’s absence.
Passavant purchased the paper on Brown’s retirement in 1928, serving as editor until 1936. In 1933 the paper was cited for honorable mention in editorial competition.
Passavant, who was born in Uniontown, Pa., in 1882, came to Newnan to live in 1906 and married Edgar Means North. The news staff in the early 1930s consisted of Passavant and a young woman named Roberta Lyndon, later Roberta Mayes of Atlanta.
“I worked from 1934 until 1936 — when I came to Atlanta,” Mayes recalled in a 1988 interview.
“I was a little of everything. Mr. Passavant didn’t have a large staff,” Mayes said. She remembered Passavant as “a marvelous person to work for.”
In 1936, Passavant sold the paper to Hanson G. Ford. During the four years that Ford operated the Herald, his wife, Dorothy Gardner Ford, a descendant of Newnan’s Cole family, took an active role in the newspaper’s operations.
In 1940, Ford sold the paper to George W. MacNabb and Victor D. Armstrong. Armstrong soon left to serve in the armed forces, and MacNabb continued as editor and business manager until 1946.
Miss Sarah Parrott worked with MacNabb at the Herald. “It was during the war years,” she said in 1988, describing the late MacNabb as “an intelligent young man.”
She recalled, “It was difficult during the war. It was hard to get paper to begin with.” Ink was also rationed. A small staff of no more than five put out the newspaper.
“We did everything ourselves,” Parrott remembered. Wiley Long was among the employees during those years.
The paper achieved renown from others in the newspaper field under MacNabb’s leadership. The Herald received several awards from the Georgia Press Association, including first place for best editorial and best news coverage in 1944.
The Newnan Herald had been born in the aftermath of one war and entered a new era as World War II came to a close. In October 1946, the Herald was acquired from MacNabb by Evan W. Thomasson and James J. Thomasson, publishers of the Newnan Times.
James Thomasson and his wife, Emeline Cheney Thomasson, and E.W. Thomasson and his wife, Betty Clay Thomasson, came to Coweta County from Carrollton, Ga., in 1935. E.W. Thomasson’s father, J.J. Thomasson, was also a newspaper publisher.
“Throughout the western part of the State of Georgia the name of Thomasson has come to be prominently identified with newspaper publishing,” noted “The History of Georgia,” published by the American Historical Association in 1938.
The first issue of The Newnan Times was published March 12, 1936. Emeline Thomasson died later that year.
In 1938, James Thomasson married Newnan native Ida Askew. Ida Thomasson was involved in the newspaper for years, working as an editor and writing a popular weekly column, “Personally Speaking.”
James Thomasson died in 1979, and Ida Thomasson died in 1981. Their son, William W. “Billy” Thomasson, is president and owner of The Times-Herald today.
The Newnan Times and The Newnan Herald were published separately for about a year after the Thomassons bought the Herald. The first issue of The Newnan Times-Herald was published on Dec. 24, 1947.