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December 11, 1991
Interviewed by Bob Coke
Transcribed January 13, 1992 Henry J. Ledet
Coke: Bob Coke here, December 11, 1991. I'm in the Lincoln County Public Library with Charlie Jacobs. We're going to sit here and discuss a few things about the Brookhaven Daily Leader and Charlie's life and just anything in general. To start off, good morning Charlie.
Jacobs: Good morning, Bob.
Coke: Charlie, first, let's get a little background on you personally. What is your full and entire name?
Jacobs: Charles Robinson Jacobs, Jr.
Coke: Charles Robinson Jacobs, Jr. Where were you born Charlie?
Jacobs: I was born in Chicago, Illinois.
Coke: Chicago. What is your wife's name?
Jacobs: Pat, Patricia; Patricia Patterson Jacobs.
Coke: Her maiden name, then, was Patterson?
Coke: Are your parents from Chicago?
Jacobs: My mother was born and raised there, my father came there around 1900.
Coke: Briefly tell us what were their names?
Jacobs: My father was Charles Robinson Jacobs Sr., my mother was Amy Woodruff Orton.
Coke: How many children do you have?
Jacobs: I have three.
Coke: And their names?
Jacobs: The first one is Randall Woodruff Jacobs, second one Sheldon Truesdale Jacobs, and William Orton Jacobs.
Coke: O.K., Charlie. When did you first come to Brookhaven?
Jacobs: I came in 1958, November, I think it was.
Coke: If you will, I'm going to let you talk on. Give us a little run down on how you found out about Brookhaven, what you did when you came here, and get started on that vein.
Jacobs: After getting out of the service during World War II, I got started in the newspaper business. I went to Meredith, New Hampshire, and worked on what they called the G.I. Bill of Rights, the government paid half of your salary. The salary was, I think, sixty dollars a week. After a year working for the paper it became for sale and I bought the paper with the G.I. Bill of Rights, they guaranteed a four percent loan. I stayed there for five years, sold out and went to Wauseon, Ohio. With the money I made on the sale of the Meredith News, I bought the Wauseon Republican. I stayed there six years and moved to Sarasota, Florida. I worked in the advertising department of the Bradenton Herald. Newspapers are sold through brokers just like real estate brokers. A broker got hold of me and told me about Brookhaven, Mississippi. I came up and looked at it and eventually decided to take over the paper.
Coke: Who was running the paper then? Who was running it and who owned it?
Jacobs: It was owned by a man named Joe Lee. Dalton Brady held the note on it; Lee lost the paper, he forfeited on his loan. I picked it up from there. At that time there were two papers in Brookhaven, the Lincoln County Advertiser and the Leader Times. I had the Leader Times. It was the older paper. We had a dog-eat-dog battle and eventually we merged the two papers. Bill Lauderdale owned the Advertiser. He died six months afterwards. Eventually I was able to acquire the Lauderdale interest in what had become the Leader Advertiser. We dropped the Times and became the Leader Advertiser. After a number of years, it was 1968 we started the Daily Leader, we published five days a week. This is almost 1992 and it's been going since 1968.
Coke: How often was the paper published before you took it over?
Jacobs: The Advertiser was a weekly and the Leader Times was published twice a week. The Leader-Advertiser continued as a semi-weekly.
Coke: When you got the paper, what was your general policy as to how you would operate the paper, what were you trying to accomplish...can you tell us a little along those lines?
Jacobs: Newspapers have changed considerably in my period of being in the newspaper business. We've gone from letterpress, which was the old hot metal, hand type, linotype to photojournalism and offset printing. The paper, at this point, is completely computerized, all the accounting, the bookkeeping, production of the newspaper. Mr. B. T. Hobbs, who started the newspaper, would never recognize it. It's entirely different from that time.
Coke: I believe your wife was involved in the paper from the very beginning?
Jacobs: She introduced photography which was very important. At one time, photography was seldom used in small newspapers. She got into photography and that was one way we forced the Advertiser into a merger. Our paper became much more popular and they decided to go along with us. To this day, photography is very important to the newspaper.
Coke: In other words, you out photographed your competition.
Jacobs: They used maybe one picture a week while we filled the paper up with local pictures.
Coke: As far as Brookhaven was concerned, you had to have goals other than just selling papers, what were you trying to get across to the people here, to represent--I don't know exactly how to put that in words, but maybe you do. What was the sentiment of the paper?
Jacobs: Good government was a very important thing. We wanted to see honest government. Our county government as well as the city was not exactly lily white. We editorially worked hard on the county especially. Eventually one year the voters cleaned out the entire court house. We got all new officials and we started to get much more efficient government. We also were interested in seeing Brookhaven grow, in bringing in industry. The only way you're going to keep children in Brookhaven is to have jobs for them. We worked very closely with the Chamber of Commerce and there's been considerable success in that way. I was chairman of the Industrial Development Foundation for a year and during that year we worked on Wal-Mart to get their distribution center [located] here. It's probably the biggest building, in square feet of space, in the state. It's about a million, three hundred thousand square feet of space. That's their distribution center. They bring in truck after truck load of merchandise which is dispersed from this particular place.
Coke: Are you aware of how the Wal-Mart retail store rates in the United States as compared to all other Wal-Mart stores in the United States?
Jacobs: I don't understand what you mean.
Coke: If you were rating them, the stores that sell the most merchandise, make the most profit if you add it all up. Do you know what is the number one Wal-Mart store in the United States?
Jacobs: No, I don't. I do know the store in Brookhaven is a fine store but it's also run a lot of the other businesses out which is too bad.
Coke: The information I have is that this store is number one in the United States. That might be open to some debate, but that came to me pretty reliable. You ought to be proud of that, especially if you had something to do with bringing Wal-Mart here. As to running all the other stores out of business, explain exactly what you mean by that, Charlie?
Jacobs: Wal-Mart has such a wide scope of merchandise and their prices--I'm not sure they are a great deal cheaper but the public thinks they're cheaper--consequently we had T.G. and Y., we had Woolworth's, we had Gibson's, and some others that closed down because they couldn't compete with them.
Coke: Do you think it's possible that maybe these stores had a little bit to do with their demise themselves by not, well, I don't really know how to say this, but it seems to me that they had something to do with going out of business--other than Wal-Mart.
Jacobs: I agree, that's entirely possible. A merchant shouldn't say, "I'm here in Brookhaven and therefore you should shop with me." A merchant should definitely provide better service.
Coke: A man would say to his wife, "John Jones made me mad." How did he make him mad? Did he put a gun on him and say, "Get mad."? People will say so-and-so put them out of business because they couldn't compete with them. You compete, I'm not trying to give you a loaded question, but I believe there's more to competition than price.
Jacobs: That certainly is true--appearance of the store, the merchandise they carry, the service, that's very important too.
Coke: Just go ahead and talk about that.
Jacobs: Getting back to the newspaper, what we believe in for Brookhaven, we don't say we're Republican in politics, but we usually support Republicans because I feel they are more conservative and more responsible, as a rule. We've always had a pro-Republican policy which might be a little revolutionary to some people in an area that was once ninety nine percent Democratic. I think that's turning around. We don't want to see Brookhaven become a metropolis, but we want to see it grow in business and have a receptive atmosphere for young people who want to stay here. I have discovered in my time here that there are a lot of people who have left Brookhaven and come back. There are a lot of people who would like to stay but they can't. In the case of one of my sons, Bill, he stayed here. He's working for the paper, he's really taken it over now. I'm approaching retirement.
Coke: What do you think about Brookhaven's tourism program?
Jacobs: I think it's great. I think with Natchez close by and the Gulf Coast close by we're in a good location where people can come and spend a little time with us. We don't have, we aren't the location of a battle field, George Washington didn't sleep here, but still it's a pretty town.
Coke: What do you think Brookhaven could do to increase it's drawing power in the field of tourism?
Jacobs: I think we need to keep the "Southern Atmosphere" in Brookhaven. One of the editorial battles we lost was over our courthouse. The old courthouse was torn down because it was unusable. We worked hard to get traditional architecture in the new court house. We lost that battle; we got a modernistic one that looks like a courthouse anywhere--it could be in North Dakota or Massachusetts or California. I think what Brookhaven needs to do is keep its traditions and hopefully old houses will not be torn down but restored, kept up and so far there is a lot of that going on.
Coke: You are a member of the Brookhaven Trust, I happen to know. They're set up primarily to preserve these old landmarks and keep these buildings from being torn down that you're talking about. What is your opinion regarding Whitworth College?
Jacobs: For years I worked to try to keep it open. I now realize as a college it is just out of the picture. What we need to do is to find a way to hold on to most of the buildings. It would be better to tear them down than to let them fall down. It too bad when it was time to build the new court house it couldn't have been built on that property and had a big park around it. But now, if we could find some use for all of the buildings it would be fine. If we have to settle for some, especially Lampton Auditorium, we should do that and make a park out of the rest of the area. I don't think it ought to be commercialized.
Coke: Do you have any ideas about possible uses of those buildings?
Jacobs: I really don't. You hear rumors every now and then that somebody is interested in moving in, maybe could be that the post office could use--they're planning to build a new post office in the next few years--that might be a good location for a post office building architecturally designed to fit the property.
Coke: Has the Brookhaven Daily Leader ever considered being a receiver for the sounds regarding Whitworth College and its possible uses? There may be people out there with ideas and the paper, seems to me, would be an ideal receiving place for these ideas.
Jacobs: I think that would be a fine idea. My son Bill is Vice President of the Trust and he's gung-ho for it. He probably would be glad to do that.
Coke: You'd be surprised at some of the ideas that the average people on the street might have. Of course ninety per cent of them might be waste basket material, but something good might come out of it.
Jacobs: That's right. We could ask for letters to the editor with that idea in mind.
Coke: Do we get many letters to the editor to the Leader?
Jacobs: Not as many as we'd like. Unfortunately, you get people who are sort of extreme who tend to write letters. I think other people don't want to be put in the same category so they don't write. Also we require that their name and address be included. A lot of people write letters to the editor and sign it "Disgruntled Citizen" or "Concerned Citizen" and we have to throw those in the waste basket.
Coke: Do you think the fact that there are not many secrets in a small town, that's not a loaded statement that's a fact, that everybody knows that people are a little wary of getting something started about them.
Jacobs: I think that's very possible or probable.
Coke: That's too bad, but that's the nature of all small towns, not just Brookhaven. Charlie, lets talk about something else. This may be a little controversial, but I don't think you can give a history of anything strictly on the good. You've got to have everything. What do you thing of the race relations in Brookhaven? Mostly black and white here in Brookhaven. It seems to me that Brookhaven has never had the problems that some sections of the state and the south have had. What is the reason for that?
Jacobs: I think, having been here since '58 and having lived through the so-called Civil Rights days, the black population had good leadership where McComb, for example, had marches and T.V. cameras down there grinding away making them look bad. The black leadership here tended to discourage that kind of action. Now, in more recent years, there has been more militancy. We had this boycott a few years ago, that did a lot of damage. The faith of the responsible white people was shattered by that conduct of those people.
Coke: What do you mean by damage? What are you referring to as damage?
Jacobs: Trust. Where we trusted the leadership at one time. They get some new preachers who come in and they stir the people up. Then they leave to go elsewhere. I guess the N.A.A.C.P. needs membership, so they get them all excited about some cause, probably an imagined cause. I just don't think Brookhaven's black people, ninety percent of them, are bigoted or racists, but a speaker can arouse them and get them all excited. It's really too bad it happened that way. I think as a whole, the schools seem to be getting along fine now.
Coke: Are there any blacks in the city government in Brookhaven?
Jacobs: Yes, there are three aldermen. There are no blacks in the county government but there is a district with a black majority but they still elected a white this past year.
Coke: To your knowledge, are there any blacks attending the leading churches in Brookhaven?
Jacobs: Yes, there are some cases of that. I think they prefer to be with their own kind. They're certainly welcome in the other churches.
Coke: How about in the civic clubs of Brookhaven? Do they have any blacks in them?
Jacobs: The noon Lions, no, Kiwanis Club.
Coke: To my knowledge, there are none in the Lions Club. There's a Noon Lions Club and a Night Lions Club. Do you think if these people were involved in the leading churches and the civic organizations that there would be more trust between the blacks and the whites and a better understanding?
Jacobs: I don't know. It could be, but I think people want to go with their own kind. It's just like in churches there shouldn't be any line between wealth and lack of wealth but there are some churches that attract different groups that way too.
Coke: That seems to be prevailing as far as the churches, that attitude of going your own way, but the businesses, I notice they are full of blacks. That policy doesn't spill over into doing business with them. It's only with the social aspect of it. Is that true?
Jacobs: I think that's probably true. The blacks have responsible jobs. Our pressman, that's a very important job in a newspaper, he's a black fellow.
Coke: What do you think the future will hold for race relations. I know, personally, that Lincoln County has never had the problems that McComb or Holmes County [have had]. There has to be reasons for it and I think you brought out some of those reasons very well. What I'm concerned with now is do you think these relations are going to improve as time goes on?
Jacobs: I don't have a crystal ball, but I think it depends. If you get militant black leadership moving into a community you're going to have trouble. They stir the blacks up so that they don't trust the whites and the whites don't trust the blacks. As long as you have good, solid, sensible leadership, that's the important thing and that's how things will continue to improve.
Coke: There was a time there were problems with races other than blacks. That seems to have vanished completely in Brookhaven. I don't know of many small towns, particularly in the south that have had a Jewish mayor, and the fine Jewish people that we have in Brookhaven and Lincoln County. Do you want to comment on that?
Jacobs: Since I've been here, the Jewish population has gone down. Wal-Mart, for one thing, has run them out of business. They had small businesses and they've gone elsewhere. There really aren't very many of them here now. We did have a Jewish mayor.
Coke: What I was referring to was the attitude of the general citizenry regarding the Jewish religion. I believe the Jews claim they are a religion, not a race. Is that correct?
Jacobs: I don't know.
Coke: I believe that is correct and there has been some discrimination around the country, but I don't believe there is any at all regarding Jewish or Italian people in the city of Brookhaven.
Jacobs: That's very true. The country club--in some places, Jewish people were not allowed in the country club--there's no question here. I've often been taken for being Jewish, I'm definitely not, but I've experienced some of that discrimination not only in Brookhaven but other places because people thought I was. I don't know why the name Jacobs is any more Jewish than Matthews or Thomas or other Biblical names, but for some reason we have that. In fact, our mayor, our present mayor, doesn't like Jews and he's always talking about that blipity blip Jew so-and-so and he thinks I'm one. I don't like him, so....
Coke: I would think this would be a bad world if everybody liked each other, or everybody disliked each other. You really need a cross section to make up a community, don't you think?
Jacobs: I suppose so. I would be nice if everybody was perfect like you and me.
Coke: Charlie, looking at this thing as a whole, what do you thing about the future of Brookhaven? You must have some idea, being in the newspaper business, to project the future for Brookhaven.
Jacobs: I think towns the size of Brookhaven, are on the border line. I think our town is going to progress and grow. Smaller towns, I hate to name names, like Monticello, Meadville, Tylertown and so on are not going to grow. With the big chain-type stores coming into the bigger towns and not coming into the smaller ones, people in the smaller ones tend to shop and get jobs in the bigger towns. The smaller ones are just going to become bedroom towns in the next generation.
Coke: What can Brookhaven do to keep our kids at home, to keep them from going to the bigger cities and having to stay away until they retire, to keep them here all the time?
Jacobs: We need to get more industry continuously. I think Brookhaven's Industrial Park is, including Jackson, the largest in the state. If that's not true, it certainly is second to Jackson. We have many many acres of land available, some of its filled up but we've got a lot more to go. The Chamber of Commerce is considering buying more land for future growth.
Coke: Do you think it would be wise for your paper to take an attitude of, "Let's go Brookhaven, let's move, let's swing with the times and keep our kids at home"? They have a saying, "America First" that's been used for the last two hundred years but it still sounds good, "Lincoln County First" or "Brookhaven First."
Jacobs: We have to be careful because our paper circulates in Franklin, Copiah and Lawrence County and to some extent in Jefferson County. If we keep saying, "Buy at home and to heck with anybody else" that might have a negative effect on some of our readers. We still have always tried to promote Brookhaven.
Coke: You feel like a moderate approach would be better than, I don't know how to word this, but the really-go-out-and-tear-them-up approach.
Jacobs: I think moderation in everything is important. That's the way to do it.
Coke: I'll have to agree with you on that. In operating your paper, you must have had some controversial things come up, people that you're dealing with. Can you think, off the top of your head, of some situation where you had somebody in Brookhaven or anywhere giving you a problem?
Jacobs: I think that's natural in any paper that people will tell you how to run it. We're always glad to get ideas. Is that the end of the tape?
Coke: That's about the end of this tape, Charlie. Lets cut off right here, think about what we've been talking about and we can do another one. I really have enjoyed talking to you. Let's go over on the other side.
Coke: We're on side two of our interview with Mr. Charles Jacobs. We're going to continue on, he has some more things to say, so I'll just turn it right over to you.
Jacobs: I want to talk a little about the history of The Leader in Brookhaven and of newspapers in general. Most people aren't aware of it, but every town in the country used to have many newspapers, maybe three or four at a time. Then it got down to two. When I came to Brookhaven, we had two papers and now we have one. For economic reasons, it just had to be that way. The Leader according to the record was founded in 1883 by B. Turner Hobbs. If we twist things a little bit, we can actually go back to 1840. Let me go on from there. Mr. Hobbs went to Newton, Mississippi and met Col. R. H. Henry. Col. R. H. Henry had The Ledger in Newton. He decided to move The Ledger to Brookhaven and he brought Mr. Hobbs with him. Mr. Hobbs was a teenager at that time. He came to Brookhaven in 1875 with the Ledger. During that time, he bought up other newspapers, including the Southern Journal which had moved from Monticello to Brookhaven in 1868. He also bought the Brookhaven Citizen (which was sold to the Ledger in 1877) which in its masthead claimed to have been founded in 1840. That really goes back. Col. Henry decided in 1883 to move The Ledger to Jackson and that evolved into the Clarion Ledger of today. B. T. Hobbs started the Leader in 1883 but he took over the Ledger's subscription list and much of their equipment, and stayed in the same location. He just changed the name to The Leader. That's why you could say we go back to 1840. If that's the case, we are one of the oldest papers in the state. Around 1861 there was a newspaper called The Brookhaven Advertiser. There isn't much information on that but there is no connection with what later became the Lincoln County Advertiser. The Journal, The Brookhaven Journal started out in Monticello as the Southern Journal. It came to Brookhaven in 1868 as the Brookhaven Journal and then was sold to The Ledger. The Citizen, as I've said before, was sold prior to the death of its editor/publisher, James L. Magee, to a Republican organization with Maj. R. W. Millsaps and Capt. J. O. Burke and a Mr. Hoskins.
Coke: How do you spell that name?
Jacobs: Burke? B-u-r-k-e. J. O. Burke. It was sold to the Ledger in 1877. That paper claimed to have been founded in 1840. I don't know if it was in Brookhaven or where. Since Brookhaven was started in 1818, it could have been here. Then we have the Leader which succeeded the Ledger, established in 1883. Under Mr. B. T. Hobbs, he bought The South Mississippian and consolidated it with the Leader. The South Mississippian had been established in 1905. There was the Lincoln County Times. The Lincoln County Times was established by Wheelock S. and Lauren Harvey Bowen, they were the editors and publishers. They purchased the Brookhaven Progress and the Brookhaven News in 1889 and started the Lincoln County Times. The Lincoln County Times was combined after Mr. L. H. Bowen's death with The Leader. The Leader had been called The Semi-Weekly Leader. Originally it was the Brookhaven Leader, then it became the Semi-Weekly Leader. The Leader was bought by Dalton Brady (pronounced Braddy). He and Thomas David Becker had it right before World War II. They purchased the Lincoln County Times and at that point both of the men went off to the service. The paper was run by remote control by Mr. Brady's brother. Then along came Mr. Joe Lee who bought the paper from Dalton Brady. He didn't make a success of it and Brady foreclosed on him. I came along in 1958. Going back to the beginning, you had B. T. Hobbs, when he died, his wife, Lena Hobbs, took over and ran it. Then his son, Paul Hobbs, took over and ran it. The paper had been in the Hobbs family for 57 years. That's really something! Paul Hobbs was aided by his sister, Miss Mary Hobbs. B.T. Hobbs was known for his strong stand on prohibition. He was very strong about that and supposedly got into a cane fight or a fist fight with someone from Jackson. He was well know for his integrity. According to Col. Henry, who wrote on him at his death, "He immediately took rank with the editors of the state as an energetic, fearless and forceful writer. He was the most active of them on the prohibition struggles and was in the forefront of every fight for the abolition of saloons. Victory being achieved in his county in 1888 and 20 years later by legislative enactment throughout the state. One who knew B. T. Hobbs well from his youth has written, 'The deceased editor stood high among the journalists of the state, among whom, by his own efforts had made himself and at one time was president of the Mississippi Press Association. Chivalrous, brave, generally, and as true to his conviction as a needle to a pole he will leave a vacant place in the ranks of the fraternity that will be hard to fill'." That was said by Col. Henry. I believe that about covers it.
Coke: That's very interesting. Keep in mind, Charlie, that if you think of something else we sure would like to hear it. There's no problem, we've got plenty of tape and plenty of time. Just jot down some notes and we'll do another interview. You'd be surprised at the things you'll think of. What I'd like to do is for you to borrow this tape when Henry gets through with it and listen to it. Undoubtedly when you hear it you're going to pick up some new ideas and some more things you want to say. Just let me know and we'll get them right on there. It's been a pleasure talking to you and I'm in agreement with 99 percent of everything you said.
Jacobs: Well, I'm sorry about that one percent.
Coke: As you said, we can't all be perfect. So, good day Charlie. We'll see you later.
Jacobs: Thank you very much.
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Brookhaven, MS 39601