More tributes have poured in as past and present local residents remember the News Journal’s late publisher Clarence Graham, who died on Monday at 89. Graham’s work with the Wilmington News Journal spanned 42 years.
• Dana Dunn: “There are probably not enough words and time to describe how great a man Clarence Graham was and how much he cared for those who worked with and for him, and how much he cared for his community, which he served in many capacities beyond the newsroom. He will certainly be missed.
“He hired me as sports editor right out of journalism school and was constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone. I think Clarence was probably the first editor to write a weekly opinion column for the News-Journal and encouraged me to do the same when I was the sports editor and later the city editor. I didn’t want to do it and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to find stuff to write about but he said I would and he was right.
“Clarence might also have been the first local editor to regularly cover Clinton Memorial Hospital board meetings and probably other public meetings that previously never received coverage like they should.
“We had a great staff the eight years I was there and we had some good times. Saturday mornings were usually the best when Clarence usually bought breakfast at Zimmie’s and we got to put to bed the last paper of the week.
“And he certainly gets credit for launching many successful careers that took former News Journal reporters to high-profile careers well beyond the borders of Clinton County.
“If you could reach them all, I am sure they would tell you that.”
• Bill Liermann: “Back in the day when I came to town in 1978 we were considered competitors, he with the newspaper and me with the radio station, both covering local news. I always kidded him, ‘I get it on the air first’, but he always said to me, ‘I will get the last word, and have more quotes.’
“We sat side by side at many city council meetings,” said Liermann, who is currently a Wilmington city councilman. “After I left the station in the early 1990s I worked part-time as a sports stringer covering high school games. He taught me so much about writing. But for me, his legacy will always be starting the Vince Lombardi Outstanding Down Lineman Award along with Harold Losey. He appreciated my recognizing them in the news releases, but he felt I gave him too much credit. Not so — they had the vision and that is why we still do the banquet, except this year because of social distancing.
“Clarence was a man of integrity,” Liermann added. “That is how I will remember him. Godspeed sir. RIP.”
• Brett Borton (currently associate professor and program coordinator at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort: “After graduating from Ohio University in June 1981, I was on my way to a job in Muskogee, Oklahoma when Clarence offered me the sports editor’s position at the News Journal. I’ve never had a better boss. He was tough when he needed to be (which, with me, was fairly often), but he was also nurturing and supportive and a great communicator in his own quiet, thoughtful way.
“To me, Clarence was the epitome of a small-town newspaper editor; he understood the importance of community journalism and the responsibility that we had to our readers throughout Clinton County. I learned a great deal from him in a relatively short period of time, and I’m forever grateful for everything he did for me.”
• Michael Graham, who is Clarence’s son and who worked with his father as News Journal editor for three years, said his father “had a home-grown voice that resonated with readers of his columns and editorials.” Though he’s a local financial advisor now, Michael like his father had journalism in his blood and wrote for the Cincinnati Post and Cincinnati Magazine.
One of Michael’s fondest memories of childhood is his father taking him to high school basketball games around Clinton County, when Clarence covered sports for the News Journal. Michael recalls riding back to the newspaper offices on Friday and Saturday nights, discussing the feats of standout players such as Phil Snow, Bobby Hooper and Dale Jones.
• Gary Huffenberger, a current News Journal reporter who worked for the publication several years when Clarence was the publisher, said Clarence was well-respected in the community for the work he did at the local newspaper of record.
Huffenberger said he still thinks of Clarence as “Mr. Newspaperman,” whose roles over many ink-stained years ranged from selling advertisements to covering sports and general news, and ultimately serving as the News Journal editor and general manager, and finally taking on the duties of publisher.