Columns » Words


by and


An obituary of Hugh B. Patterson, publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, said, “Patterson sold the Gazette to the Gannett Co. a short time later, and often professed unhappiness with the changes the national chain made to the state’s ‘gray lady.’ ”

The late Arkansas Gazette’s nickname was not “gray lady,” and Hugh Patterson would have known that. Nor was it “old gray lady,” as one of the Gannetoids called it during a staff meeting, apparently thinking of “the old gray mare” of song. (This was not the only evidence of confusion on his part.) No, the nickname was “the old lady,” and it apparently came from an essay by James Street, who was at one time a well-known writer of both fiction and non-fiction, mostly about the South, and who had worked at the Gazette early in his career. Street wrote:

“For more than a hundred years, the popular symbols of the state of Arkansas were a fiddler, a slow train, a razorback hog, and a hillbilly. But that’s not so these days and a lot of credit for the change goes to a sedate newspaper that seldom changes, a fussy old lady of a newspaper whose brass knucks never are visible under her prim white gloves. She is the Arkansas Gazette, oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River and published every morning in Little Rock, usually a quiet guardian who watches her state like an old Dominiquer hen scratching for her mixed brood while taking a few juicy worms for herself. … She’s a Southern lady from any angle … ”

This was written before the 1957 integration crisis, when the Gazette would gain its greatest fame.

The Gazette died in 1991. Some might say it makes no difference now what her nickname was. But at the Gazette, getting things right was always important, and those who worked there can’t break the habit.

If you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taut:

Both Mike Morrissey and Bob Lancaster took note of this sports-page item:

“The taught emotions boiled over with Terry punching Finley …”

Add a comment