A Nov. 4, 1879, gift to all who value wit and wisdom, Rogers came to this nation via Oologah, Okla. Although his death came 78 years ago, he is still remembered by many, especially those who treasure memories from a simpler time when life crawled by at a slower pace.
The man loved his newspapers ... there is no doubt. Whether ink tinted his blood, we cannot be sure.
But closer to home, we know of one whose life and career forged new paths for the printed word. On Saturday, those who knew him and those whose lives he touched, will say goodbye.
We speak of Carmage Lee Walls Sr., 79, who passed away peacefully last weekend at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Ala. Not only was he the founder and CEO of Walls Newspaper Consultants which owned and operated daily publications in nine states, he was a former publisher of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
This veteran newsman, whose respected publications enjoyed a strong reputation for factual reporting and objectivity, is remembered by many in our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown.
Walls had been retired from active business for several years, and had turned the reins of the company over to his son.
Walls launched his newsprint collective in Cleveland, and later moved his corporate offices to Houston in the 1970s, and eventually to Birmingham, Ala., in 1989. Though separated from Southeast Tennessee by great physical distances, he never lost his love for Bradley County nor the community newspaper that served as his corporate flagship.
Many recall this newsprint pioneer — especially friends and former co-workers who credit him with the launch of their careers.
One is Beecher Hunter, the longtime president of Life Care Centers of America Inc. whose early start in journalism can be traced to a Walls newspaper.
“I was working at the Herald-Citizen in Cookeville when Lee called and invited me over for an interview and a possible position with the Banner,” Hunter reminisced. “I was impressed with what I heard and saw in him, so I accepted the job.”
The Life Care executive called Walls “... a wonderful human being and a good newspaperman.” Hunter stressed, “Lee helped shape my journalism career, and I am forever indebted for his positive impact on me. Cleveland and Bradley County have lost someone who cared deeply about us, even after he moved away.”
Another fond memory is offered by Sandra M. Rowland, the wife of Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, whose early start in newspaper work is also linked to Walls.
“Lee Walls gave me my first news assignment to cover, at the Courthouse,” Rowland, who is now marketing director for Brenda Lawson & Associates, recalled. “He walked me to the Courthouse and as we walked, he told me, ‘The main thing to remember is you are covering this meeting so the average person, like the man who is at work ... on the line at Magic Chef for example, can come home, read the Banner and know exactly what happened in the meeting.’”
Cleveland’s first lady reflected, “He was a great man indeed.”
Friends and loved ones will celebrate his life Saturday at 2 p.m. in the sanctuary of Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church in Vestavia Hills, Ala. A reception will follow in the church’s parlor.
Surely, Carmage Lee Walls Sr. will be missed by those who knew the man and who understand the newspaper profession.
In the industry, he was a pioneer.
In the very soul of newspapering, he was a giant.
In the spirit of the printed word, he was a teacher of the highest order.
Yet, in saying goodbye we will salute a common man, one whose commitment to truth served as signature to the ink in his blood.
Some have said when an old newspaperman dies, another archive is born.
Such belief chronicles an accepted rite of passage, one whose path leads to a turn of the final page in life.
In the world of an old newsman, it is his final “30.”
And in the hearts of those who knew him best, his is one of the greatest stories ever written.