County mourns loss of longtime Journal editor, co-publisher

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crenshaw County is mourning the loss of a longtime editor and co-publisher of The Luverne Journal.

Alvin Bland Jr., 83, died Tuesday morning, July 2, after a brief illness.

Bland, who spent nearly six decades in the newspaper business, began his newspaper career as a newspaper delivery boy for The Birmingham News in the Clayton area when he was only 11.

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At 15, he landed a job working at The Clayton Record doing odd jobs for the weekly Barbour County publication.

After graduating from Clayton High School in 1947, he continued working at the Record, eventually being named interim editor in his 20s.

While at the Record, he instituted the paper’s first editorial page. He worked in Clayton for 12 years after high school before moving to Luverne in 1959 with his mother.

After coming to Luverne, Bland partnered with then-Luverne Journal publisher Owen Reeder.

He and Linda were married in 1961 and later had twin daughters, Jeanelle and Leitha.

In 1973, Bland and James Morgan became co-owners of the Journal after buying controlling interest from Reeder. They owned the paper until 1997, when they sold the paper to Boone Newspapers Inc.

The pair continued to operate Luverne Printing until 2003, when Bland became the sole proprietor. Bland continued to operate the print shop until mid-June of 2013.

Former Journal editor Regina Grayson said she had “many good memories” of Bland that she will always treasure.

“I could set my watch by Mr. Alvin,” she said, smiling. “His daily routine was somehow very comforting and secure.”

“As soon as Mr. James (Morgan) walked into the print shop, those two would sit down and start solving the world’s problems–that’s what I always accused them of anyway.”

And if you have never been in Luverne Printing, you won’t know just how loud those presses can be, she said.

“That was always the first thing Mr. James said each morning– “I don’t hear no presses running,” Grayson said.

Grayson added that being a pillar in the community was just one way to describe Alvin Bland.

“He was like a dad to me,” she said, “and he will be missed, that’s for sure.”

Former managing bookkeeper Kathy Bradshaw recalled the good times she had working with Bland.

“Mr. Alvin and Mr. James are the greatest two guys I ever worked with or for,” she said. “Those were some of the greatest days in my life. They were my friends as well as my employers. I learned the real meaning of what real news included. Also, I never heard either of them have a conflict between each other. I grew to appreciate them in their ethics as very respected journalists.”

Despite selling the Journal, Bland continued to write a column for the publication until a few weeks before his death. He also published a trilogy of books titled “Mairzy Doats,” which included the books “Mairzy Doats,” “Mares Eat Oats, Two” and “And Little Lambs Eat Ivy,” which were selected humor (sometimes serious) columns that appears in the Journal.

Former Journal editor Michael Rodgers said Bland was one of the first people he “got to know” when he came to Luverne at the end of 2009.

“He was able to answer any questions I had about the community,” Rodgers said. “He was always able to give me another perspective on issues. His expertise and friendliness will be greatly missed.”

Bland was an active member in the Alabama Press Association, where he served on board of the Alabama Newspaper Advertising Service from 1989-1993.

“Alvin Bland was the epitome of a community newspaper editor – involved in all parts of his community,” said Felicia Mason, executive director of the APA. “He put out an informative and entertaining newspaper – entertaining through his columns. He was dedicated to making Luverne and all parts of Crenshaw County a better place for the people who live there.”

Bland was active in the Luverne Kiwanis Club, was a charter member in 1977 and served as club president from 1978-1979.

He was awarded the George F. Hixson Fellowship, which is an award named in honor of the first Kiwanis International president. He is one of only three to be named this in the Luverne organization.

Club president Ronnie Hudson remembered Bland as an integral part of the club.

“Mr. Alvin was a great asset to the Luverne Kiwanis Club,” he said. “He was a devoted member and served the club wholeheartedly. He will be deeply missed.”

Bland also served on the Luverne City Council from 1962-1978, Mayor Joe Rex Sport said.

“He’s just been a fixture here in Luverne since he came,” Sport said. “He served on the council; he was involved in civic organizations, and was very community-minded. He did an excellent job writing editorials. He became a name synonymous with Luverne, Ala.”

Bland has been active in the Crenshaw County Chamber of Commerce for many years.

“Mr. Alvin has always been a loyal Chamber member and has always supported anything the Chamber has been involved with,” said Carol Staller of the Chamber. “We will miss him tremendously. As a businessperson, he has been the backbone of Luverne for many years.”

He was also a member of Luverne United Methodist Church, where he served as a youth counselor and in many other capacities.

He was also a member of the Crenshaw County Chapter of Gideons International.

Funeral services will be held Friday, July 5, at Turner Funeral Home at 11 a.m., with visitation at 9:30 a.m.

Interment will follow at Luverne Emmaus Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Susanna Wesley Group-Luverne Methodist Church, Gideons International or the Luverne Emmaus Cemetery Fund.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years Linda Johnson Bland; his daughters Leitha (Christopher) Boutwell, of Montgomery, and Jeanelle (Stanley) Day of Tolland, Ct.; two granddaughters, Catherine Ann Boutwell and Mollie Elizabeth Boutwell of Montgomery.