Lee Wall Sr., former owner and CEO of Cleveland Newspapers, Inc., passed away last Saturday. He was 79.
Mr. Walls passed the community newspaper torch to his son, Lee Walls Jr., in recent years. But he never faded too far from the industry that he loved.
It is a bit odd that I am writing this tribute since I never actually met Mr. Walls. His occasional emails of encouragement after I accepted this position nearly two years ago and the respect shown by the employees here who worked with him over the years is enough to garner my utmost respect.
His character is written on the ink-stained walls and evident in the tears shed by many of our employees this week. Mr. Walls, I am told, was intrigued by the technological advancements made in our business over the past 30 years.
And since he moved the family business to Birmingham in 1986, he frequented the nearby Eagle office when something new hit the market. But at the end of the day, he loved to hear and feel the rumble of a well-timed press churning out thousands of newspapers that engaged the community.
Jerome Wassmann, retired publisher of the Eagle, remembers Mr. Walls fondly.
“It was my privilege to have worked for Mr. Walls and his family for 31 years in the newspaper business. He was not only a successful newspaper and business man, but was a friend to all of his employees and did whatever he could to see that they were treated fairly and with great respect,” he said.
“The newspaper industry has lost a dear friend who will be greatly missed by all those who knew him. I consider it a great honor to have known and worked for him and his family during my time at the Daily Mountain Eagle,” Wassmann continued.
Mr. Walls was the son of family patriarch Carmage Walls, a savvy community newspaperman who built a family franchise of southern community newspapers during the Civil Rights era. He his well-known in the newspaper world for having the integrity to stand up for civil rights at a time and place where it was not welcome.
I had the opportunity to attend the Carmage Walls Leadership Forum in 2003, presented by the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. His community-first philosophy resonated with me.
And from all that I have experienced these past two years, that philosophy is still alive and well at your Daily Mountain Eagle, and I would have it no other way.
Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-388-6997 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.