Favorite


As the longtime publisher of Arkansas’s largest and best newspaper, Hugh B. Patterson loomed large in momentous events, the best remembered being the Little Rock school integration crisis of 1957 and, some 30 years later, the sale of the family-owned, much-decorated Arkansas Gazette to a huge newspaper chain that oversaw the historic journal’s demise within a few years’ time, depriving the state of its strongest progressive voice. Patterson probably got less credit than he deserved in the first case, and more blame than he deserved in the second. It’s doubtful he lay awake nights fretting over this lack of appreciation. A big, bluff, sociable man, he was sure of his judgment if others weren’t.


Patterson, who died Monday, married into the family that owned the Gazette. When the paper stood fast for peaceful compliance with court-ordered integration — at great financial risk to itself — Patterson’s father-in-law, J. N. Heiskell, and Harry Ashmore, who wrote the Gazette’s noble editorials, tended to get most of the praise. But Patterson was very much a part of the ’57 fight, and of all the Gazette’s bold positions over the years. He embodied what is often referred to, sometimes disparagingly, as “the country club liberal.” Arkansas has always needed its country club liberals, never more so than in 1957.


The newspaper world was changing, shrinking, even in ’57. By the mid-’80s, it was apparent that Little Rock could no longer support two daily newspapers. A bloody newspaper war ensued, the Gazette ostensibly against the Arkansas Democrat, really against a chain that owned the Democrat and a number of other papers that were profitable enough to subsidize the Democrat. The comparatively shallow-pocketed Gazette was forced to sell, as independent newspapers across the country had done.


When the Gazette was closed in 1991, Arkansas lost a cherished institution and several hundred employees lost their jobs. Some people blamed Patterson. Some blamed the paper’s last owner, Gannett. But the Gazette fell mainly because the publisher of the family-owned Democrat, with no public stockholders to satisfy, was willing to incur huge losses indefinitely. The Patterson Gazette could not continue in such fashion. The Gannett Gazette would not.


Because of his manner, his habits, his marriage to the boss’s daughter, Patterson was sometimes regarded as lacking in substance. That was a misapprehension. He could be a formidable figure. And in a sincere if sometimes clumsy sort of way, he tried to connect with his employees across the gulf that separated them. Most publishers today are clumsy and insincere. Moving from one chain newspaper to another, they form no attachments to individual papers, the people who work there, or the cities they are supposed to serve. Hugh Patterson loved being publisher of one paper, the Arkansas Gazette. The industry and the country could use more like him.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Most Shared

  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • The people of Arkansas need to keep demanding that our state government be accountable to…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Watching C-Span last week, they were talking about Cotton for the head of the FBI…

    • on October 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation