PROFILE: From typesetter to owner, Morgan helps document history of city
The following article was part of the Profile 2016 special section of The Luverne Journal. The section in its entirety can be found in the March 31 edition of The Luverne Journal.
SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL: JOSHUA LEE
When James “PopPop” Morgan went to work as a typesetter at The Luverne Journal in 1950, each line in the newspaper had to be typed into a Linotype machine, where it was cast into metal, before it could be printed. A single page could take hours.
Morgan, now 83, became an owner of the newspaper in 1971. Before the Morgan family settled in Luverne, his father, Pinckney C. “Coss” Morgan, owned the first auto dealership in Brantley during the 1920s. It was named Morgan Motor Co.
“When they sent the cars in, they came in on freight trains,” Morgan said. “The parts would hang on the walls until they put them together, and my brother said, ‘We never did put the lights on because nobody went anywhere at night anyways.’”
In 1945 the Morgan family moved to Luverne. With four of the five sons drafted into the military, one in each branch, the family set down new roots.
“In Brantley, I had gone to school for six years,” Morgan said. “After that, I moved here and started cold turkey. One of the first people I met was (Joe Rex) Sport, and we played baseball. That was the biggest change in my life.”
Upon graduating from high school in 1951, Morgan joined the U.S. Air Force. He and his four drafted brothers returned home safely in 1954. After his service, Morgan attended college in Troy until 1955. He then decided instead to return to The Luverne Journal as a Linotype operator in 1957.
The Luverne Journal originated in Rutledge in 1888 and was first named The Luverne Enterprise. On October 7, 1890, the paper was sold to Toiler Publishing Company. In 1896, the paper was purchased by J.M. Sanders and C.B. Carter, who began publishing under the name The Luverne Journal.
Owen Reeder served as publisher of the paper until March 1953, when he turned the reins over to his wife, Mary F. Reeder. In November 1959, Alvin Bland joined the staff as a business manager, while Reeder continued to serve as editor and publisher. In January 1960, Morgan was named assistant editor.
“At that time, Alvin Bland was a Linotype operator for The Clayton Record,” Morgan said. “The Luverne Journal hired him, and that’s when we started really putting it together. He then became editor and part-owner with Mary Reeder. I bought a third of the share, and then it was just him and I, and we ran it for six years.”
On January 1, 1971, Morgan and Bland assumed ownership of the paper, having purchased Reeder’s interest. The two owned the Luverne Journal until 1997, when it was sold to the current owner, Boone Newspapers.
The Journal was recently honored at the Crenshaw County Chamber of Commerce banquet for receiving the Centennial Award. The Journal, along with other businesses in the county have served Crenshaw for 100 years or more.
When asked why they chose to stay in the city of Luverne, both James Morgan and his son, Jimmy Morgan, had the same answer: “This is our home.”
“The people here are genuine,” Jimmy Morgan said. “They are family- and community-oriented. If a family is going through a tragedy, whatever it may be, the people come together. The community comes together.”
James Morgan and his wife, Maria “ReeRee,” live in Luverne and are members of First Baptist Church.