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No finer inductees than these

May Wingfield Melton (1923-2014) and Oliver Quimby Melton Jr. (1923-2013) were inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame May 30 during the 133rd annual convention of the Georgia Press Association at Jekyll Island. It is fitting their portraits will hang in at the Grady School of Journalism in Athens where they met as journalism students. Both were editors of the UGA newspaper, The Red & Black. May was the first ever female editor after being recruited by legendary Dean John Drewry for a summer when all the male students, including Quimby, were off at war or training for war. She would soon join him at Ft. Riley, Kansas for what turned out to be the last ever U.S. Cavalry wedding at the vast training ground. They moved to California where she was a society reporter for the Sacramento Union and enjoyed the courthouse beat where she would break news of Hollywood stars who went to Sacramento to be discreetly married. When he shipped out for the Philippines where he would be seriously wounded, she set out for Georgia in a convertible with a potato on the radiator for a cap and soon became society editor of the Griffin Daily News, published by her father-in-law Quimby Melton Sr. When the war was over, Quimby returned home to the family business where he started as a paper boy at age 11 during the Depression. He termed that a life lesson in that he learned a lot about human nature, good customer service and who would pay him and who would not. He put those lessons to work. He and his father built a highly successful newspaper ‘“ the envy of publishers across the state. He and May and their four children filled their home out in the country where he raised horses and led fox hunts through the countryside. Quimby, a member of the state legislature and the board of regents, took a fearless stand against segregation. When many wanted to close local schools rather than integrate them, he wrote a strong editorial denouncing the rabble rousers. When the Ku Klux Klan started burning crosses in front of homes, he wrote another missive blistering the racists. For his courage, he had a cross burned in his own yard. The sheriff escorted him to work and his kids to school for a couple of weeks. That was a tumultuous, dangerous era during which a newspaperman, or anyone for that matter, could be killed for taking the minority position even if it was the correct position to take. Quimby didn’t back down and, as most often happens, common sense eventually prevailed. May moved that charred cross out back to her rose garden and it sported her beautiful roses as a trellis until it rotted away. Quimby later bought weekly newspapers, including the one you hold in your hands. He took a personal interest in ‘“ and added a personal touch to ‘“ each of them. May read them all from cover to cover, offering advice and serving as a sounding board for ideas, approving many but wisely rejecting a few. Their’s was a beautiful love story that produced a beautiful family. Quimby was nominated for the Hall of Fame by his daughter Laura Melton Geiger, the last family member remaining in the newspaper business. May was nominated by her granddaughter and namesake May Melton Geiger whom she cherished. That was just as it should have been. The Hall of Fame counts among its members 91 other giants of the industry like Henry Grady and Margaret Mitchell but none finer than these, its newest May and Quimby Melton. I count having them in my life as among God’s greatest gifts to me. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette and Pike County Journal Reporter. He may be reached at 770-358-NEWS or news@barnesville.com.

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