Third class to be inducted at Aug. 11 ceremony in Murfreesboro
MURFREESBORO — The Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame will honor nine pioneering print and broadcast journalists in ceremonies Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The induction will come in conjunction with the 67th annual Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference. WSMV-TV longtime news anchor Demetria Kalodimos will emcee the program, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 11. Family and friends of the honorees will be in attendance.
This will be the third class of inductees but the first in which all recipients are being recognized posthumously.
The 2015 class includes:
• Minor Elam Bragg and John Thomas Bragg, two generations of Middle Tennessee newspaper publishers — a father and son, the latter becoming a Tennessee statesman and reformer responsible for passing Tennessee’s open meetings (Sunshine) law.
• Kent Flanagan, a native Texan and veteran Associated Press executive who practiced journalism on various platforms.
• Jack Knox, a nationally recognized editorial cartoonist who practiced his wit and biting commentary in three of the state’s four largest cities.
• Roy McDonald, whose bigger-city publishing career traces back to an advertising sheet he started to promote his grocery business in Chattanooga.
• Bob Parkins, a small-town dairyman who grew his rural West Tennessee newspaper from scratch through merger.
• John N. Popham III, a native Virginian who landed in Tennessee to cover the South and civil rights for The New York Times and stayed.
• Henry Grantland Rice, a nationally syndicated sports columnist from Murfreesboro whose contributions to sports resonate decades after his death.
• Drue Smith, a trailblazing woman who started in newspapers before switching to become a respected and colorful broadcast political reporter.
The Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame is an independent partner with MTSU’s College of Mass Communication, which houses the hall in its Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building on the MTSU campus.
Individuals who have distinguished themselves through news or business management, leadership in the industry, or in the ordinary practice of all forms of journalism can be considered for induction into the TJHOF. The work and contributions of many of the honorees have been recognized nationally and regionally.
Inductees can include reporters, writers, editors, publishers, news directors and other managers, as well as those who have excelled in advertising or public relations and journalism, advertising and PR education.
The Hall of Fame’s bylaws note that its inductees represent “those who have made significant and substantial contributions to the journalism profession.” Honorees may be living or deceased, native Tennesseans who spent much of their career in state or out of state, or non-natives who spent a substantial part of their career in Tennessee.
For more information about the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, visit its website at http://www.tnjournalismhof.org or contact Hooper Penuel, TJHOF secretary, at 615-347-1672.
Below are more detailed biographies of the 2015 honorees in alphabetical order:
John Thomas Bragg
John Bragg (1918-2004) came from a newspaper family that owned the Cannon Courier and later started the Rutherford Courier, but distinguished himself in another form of public service as a legislative reformer and expert in government finance during a 30-year career in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Born in Woodbury in 1918, he graduated from what is now MTSU in 1940 with a degree in social studies. He was student body president and editor of the student newspaper, Sidelines. Bragg did graduate work in history at the University of Tennessee and worked briefly as executive director of the Tennessee Press Association in Knoxville. He served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946, returning to Murfreesboro to join his father on the Rutherford Courier and in Courier Printing. The Rutherford Courier was sold in 1958. Bragg was later elected to the Tennessee House and served from 1964 until his retirement in 1996, with a break in 1969-70. In 1974 Bragg sponsored the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, which is known as the “Sunshine Law” and mandates most official meetings of governing bodies be open to the public. He sold his interest in the printing company in 1981 to his son, Tommy. From then on, Bragg’s professional life focused on state government, where he chaired the powerful Finance, Ways and Means Committee. He helped leverage state funding for the mass communications building at MTSU that bears his name.
Minor Elam Bragg
Minor E. Bragg (1894-1966) was born in Woodbury, Tennessee, to Thomas D. Bragg and Mary Elizabeth Keele. Married to the former Callie Luree Bragg, with no known prior relation to Minor Bragg, they had two children, including John, who followed him into the publishing business. In the 1920s, Minor Bragg was the editor and publisher of the Cannon Courier, a publication he sold in 1933 after launching the Rutherford Courier in Murfreesboro and Smyrna two years before. Minor launched the new Courier and a printing company despite existing competition. His son John remembered him as an old-school journalist who thought it important for the public to have more than one source for news and discussion of public affairs. Minor Bragg attended Middle Tennessee Normal School, which later became MTSU, taught briefly at Bradyville School in the 1920s, and had interests in a funeral home, a radio station and grocery store in Woodbury. The Rutherford Courier was sold in 1958. Its founder died in 1966. Tommy and brother David would resume publishing their grandfather’s first newspaper — the Cannon Courier — between 1980 and 1995, marking a third generation of Braggs in journalism.
Van Kent Flanagan
Kent Flanagan (1945-2015) was a native Texan who spent more than 40 years in journalism, practicing on distinct platforms, including 21 years as the chief-of-bureau for the Associated Press in Tennessee. By his count, it was much “more than” four decades. He told an interviewer in 2012: “I’ve been a journalist since the age of 12. I got drafted in middle school to write sports for the student newspaper, and kept going.” The Ballinger, Texas, native graduated from Angelo State University in 1968 and served four years in the Army, including service in Vietnam. He later worked for the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel in Florida and the San Antonio Express-News before joining the AP as a newsman in Pennsylvania in 1979. AP sent him to South Carolina and North Dakota before his Nashville posting in 1983. In 2000, he witnessed and covered Tennessee’s first execution in 40 years. He left the AP in 2004 and served four years as journalist-in-residence at Middle Tennessee State University, and over two years as editor of the Shelbyville Times-Gazette. Flanagan was executive director in 2012-2013 of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit alliance of media, citizen and professional groups he helped form in 2003. He died in February 2015 after a long illness.
John “Jack” Gill Knox Jr. (1910-1985) was a Nashville-born artist and illustrator best known for the editorial cartoons drawn over more than 40 years for Tennessee newspapers. He was nationally recognized because his cartoons were often reprinted and sought by newsmakers, including presidents from the time of Dwight Eisenhower. His wit and biting conservative commentary appeared for 26 years in the Nashville Banner. His work previously appeared in The Evening Tennessean in Nashville in 1933-34 and then for 11 years at the The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. Fascinated by horses from growing up in Texas, he took a year off and worked on a ranch there before joining the Banner in 1946. He was a mainstay there until retiring in 1972, but continued drawing cartoons for the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1975. In between he authored and illustrated his second book: “America’s Tennessee Walking Horse,” published in Nashville by Hoss Country Publishers. He was a graduate of Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was mostly self-taught and received no more formal art training beyond a correspondence course his wife recommended. The Jack Knox Political Cartoon Collection in the Nashville Main Public Library consists of 240 original editorial cartoon drawings featuring his conservative political satire and caricatures in addition to his original art and writings about Middle Tennessee rural life and life on the grand rivers.
Roy McDonald (1901-1990) started out as a grocer looking for what the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture described as “an inexpensive alternative to the dominant Chattanooga Times” to advertise his chain of Home Stores. That led him in 1933 to found the Free Press, first as a small flier, which proved a popular and growing enterprise in southeast Tennessee for decades to come. McDonald added news features and comics to the Sunday weekly three years later and eventually began charging 5 cents. In August 1936, the Free Press began daily publication and was in direct competition with the morning Times and the afternoon Chattanooga News. McDonald purchased the News in 1939 and launched a new afternoon daily, the Chattanooga News-Free Press, targeting blue-collar workers whose shifts ended at 4 o’clock. In what could be described as urban community journalism, McDonald filled his publication with folksy hometown news and upbeat business features, steadily building circulation against the better-known and respected Times. They entered a joint operating agreement — described as a “truce” — in 1942 wherein the two papers shared advertising, circulation and production departments, but maintained separate news and editorial staffs. The News-Free Press became increasingly conservative in its editorial policy and by its outspoken opposition to desegregation. McDonald's increasing use of photographs of events spurred readership. McDonald died in 1990, but his son, Frank McDonald, became chairman and president of the newspaper. In 1993 the newspaper became the Chattanooga Free Press again. In 1998, it was sold to an Arkansas publisher who later acquired the Chattanooga Times and merged the newspapers ultimately under the flag of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It continued to publish separate editorial pages.
Bob Parkins (1929-2008) was a local dairyman when he and wife Dorris founded the Milan Mirror in 1965, launching a career and family legacy of community journalism. Parkins purchased The Milan Exchange in 1977, naming the new enterprise The Milan Mirror-Exchange. The Exchange was 103 years older at the time. Without pretense, Parkins distinguished his newspaper by winning countless Tennessee Press Association awards and himself through leadership in the industry he loved as president of the Tennessee Press Association. He published and edited the paper until his death in 2008. For several years he served as a state correspondent for The Nashville Tennessean, filing community features and occasional hard news pieces at a time when city papers tried to cover more territory through the use of stringers. It helped keep Gibson County, in central West Tennessee, connected to the world.
John N. Popham III
John N. Popham III (1910-1999) was dispatched by The New York Times in 1947 to cover the South, an area his editors described as “from the Potomac to central Texas.” It was an assignment in which he would distinguish himself with his coverage of the civil rights movement. The last 20 years of his 45-year career was spent at The Chattanooga Times, where he retired as managing editor in 1977. A Fredericksburg, Virginia, native and Fordham University graduate, Popham joined the Times in the 1930s. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942, earning a Bronze Star for service in the Pacific during World War II. A year after his return to the Times, he landed the Southern correspondent assignment with two conditions of management: he had to drive, not fly, from place to place, and he had to keep an office at the sister-ship Chattanooga Times. He became known to friends as “Pops” or “Johnny” and to everyone else for his heavy Tidewater Virginia accent and the trademark hats, fitting the caricature (at the time) of a newspaperman. Post-retirement and at the age of 72, he earned a law degree from the John Marshall Law School after commuting hundreds of miles a week to Atlanta.
Henry Grantland Rice
Grantland Rice (1880-1954) was an icon among sports journalists but may be remembered as much for a poem as any of the estimated 22,000 columns he wrote. He was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1880 and educated at Vanderbilt University, where he played football and baseball. After graduation in 1901, he worked at Nashville (Tennessee) Daily News, The Nashville Tennessean and the Atlanta (Georgia) Journal before joining the New York Evening Mail in 1911. In 1914 he became a sportswriter for the New York Tribune, later the Herald Tribune. He served in the Army in World War I. By one authoritative estimate, Rice wrote more than 67 million words, produced popular short motion pictures of sporting events, and according to the newworldencyclopedia.org, became the first play-by-play baseball announcer carried live on radio during the 1922 World Series. It was Rice who in 1924 named that year’s Notre Dame’s football backfield as the “Four Horsemen.” His column would eventually syndicate in more than 100 newspapers. He published three books of poetry, and it was a poem that became his most quoted work: “For when the one Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks—not that you won or lost—but how you played the game.” His autobiography, “The Tumult and the Shouting,” appeared in 1954 — the year he died of a heart attack in his office. He had just completed a column about Willie Mayes and the 1954 All-Star game.
Drue Smith (Died in 2001) was a journalist of many firsts, which made her a pioneer among women in the profession. First a feature writer for the Chattanooga News-Free Press, she later switched to the job of “society editor” at the Chattanooga Times. She would live to see the two newspapers merge under the Chattanooga Times Free Press nameplate in 2001. Smith switched to radio and hosted shows on WAPO, WDOD and later WDEF, where she was public affairs director. The day in 1954 that WDEF-TV signed on the air, so did she with “Drue’s Party Line.” She came to Nashville to work in communications for Gov. Frank Clement, leaving that job to cover political news for United Press International, WLAC Radio, the Tennessee Radio Network, WVOL Radio and multiple Nashville community newspapers. The American Women in Radio and TV named her their Broadcaster of the Year at their convention in Las Vegas. The Tennessee House and Senate named her the 133rd (honorary) member of the General Assembly. The Tennessee Broadcasters’ Association made her a life member. Then Gov. Don Sundquist hosted a reception for her at the Executive Residence attended by former governors living at the time. She was the first woman to cover politics full time at the Capitol, was the first woman chair of the Capitol Hill Press Corps, the first woman inducted into the local Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi) chapter, and became its first female president. She raised thousands of dollars for college journalism scholarships through selling tickets to the Nashville Gridiron Show. The SPJ/Drue Smith scholarship is still awarded annually by the Community Foundation. Veteran Capitol Hill reporters remember for her trademark, sound-bite grabbing strategy at the end of all gubernatorial press conferences: “Governor, what is the bottom line?”