Birney Imes: Opening day

June 9, 2009

Birney Imes - [email protected]


It''s not every day one has the opportunity to take part in the launch of a new newspaper. Such was the case Monday when, after a three-month gestation, the first issue of The Starkville Dispatch became a reality shortly after 10 a.m. 


As the presses rolled under the watchful eyes of Dispatch pressmen Jamie Morrison and Larry "Bugg" Smith, Kelly Tippett took pictures of me and son Peter, Dispatch operations manager, as we looked over just-printed papers. The picture would grace page 1 of Monday''s Commercial Dispatch. 


The production of a daily newspaper is a small miracle. Each weekday morning around 60 unusually talented people come together under one roof to work at seemingly unrelated tasks to produce the document like the one you are now holding. They do it six times a week, and no two days'' papers are ever alike. 


Around lunchtime Susan Parker of WTVA-Channel 9 showed up to an interview about the new paper. Susan set up tripod and camera in pressroom, clipped a mic to my shirt and started questions. It all seemed to go smoothly until she asked me what I thought my father and grandfather, both who were publishers of The Dispatch, would think about the new newspaper. It was something I''d never considered. "I think they would be pretty pleased about it," I said. Yes, of course they would. 


I''ve looked the position as publisher here a bit like running a leg on the mile relay. My grandfather and father ran their laps and now I have the baton. It''s up to me to run the best I can until I hand it off to the next runner. It''s important work. Challenging, rewarding and ever changing. 


(Please note: Susan incorrectly reported that we are discontinuing home delivery in Columbus. Not so.) 


My first stop in Starkville Monday afternoon was Cadence Bank to see Lewis Mallory. If anyone knows the lay of the land in Starkville, it''s Lewis. I wanted to give him a paper and seek his advice. As we talked, I asked if he knew my great uncle Grady, who owned the Starkville paper for a time and was elected mayor. Yes, he said; in fact, he and his wife, Pie, live across the street on Greensboro from the house Grady and my Aunt Margaret lived in. 


Later at Sullivan''s Office Supply, Steve Langston would tell me about living in and renovating my great uncle''s house at 512 Greensboro. While at Sullivan''s, I met Carolyn Sullivan, the dynamo who with her late husband, Don, founded the business 50 years ago in Eupora. 


Carolyn gave me a tour of the building -- formerly Weir''s Drug Store; it has entrances on Main and Lafayette. Much of the building had to be rebuilt after a winter fire in 1998 that threatened a large portion of downtown Starkville. We traveled through time by way of two of three scrapbooks she''s assembled that document the history of this family business. Carolyn is blessed to have a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren working at Sullivan''s. Nothing like a family business. 


One of the people Lewis suggested I look up was Briar Jones, a young, energetic architect who works with his father, Shelton Jones. On Washington Street, Lewis said. After cruising the length of Washington Street and seeing no sign of the architects'' office I called son Peter, who was changing the sign on our Lafayette Street bureau. After checking his iPhone -- those are amazing little gizmos, Steve Jobs -- Peter called back and said it ought to be next to the pool room (Southern Billiards. How many towns still have a pool hall?) 


While looking for Briar''s office I came upon the peripatetic Susan Parker interviewing mayor-to-be Parker Wiseman in the parking lot of city hall. Susan asked if she could shoot some video of the two of us. The affable Wiseman and I chatted while her camera rolled. 


On the second floor of a nondescript building with nothing to indicate it houses an architectural firm, I found Briar and his lovely sister, Catherine, about to run out the door for a 3 o''clock opening of an exhibition of their watercolor landscapes at the Partnership. The Starkville Art Association is headquartered in the Partnership building on Main Street and uses the organization''s reception area as an exhibition space. It''s a nice partnership. 


Before returning to Columbus I stopped by Starkville''s combination ice cream parlor, coffee house and gas station. Strange Brew, what a great name for a coffeehaus. There I ran into Caledonians Gary and Becky Brown who were in town to see their daughter play baseball. Gary and I graduated from S.D. Lee together too many years ago to mention. With ice cream and coffee in hand, we sat and visited a moment before heading our separate ways.  


Write or phone Birney Imes at The Commercial Dispatch, 516 Main St., Columbus, MS 39701, 328-2424, or e-mail him at [email protected]

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.