James Morgan, former Journal co-owner, dedicated Luverne citizen
Published 3:31 pm Saturday, September 1, 2018
James Morgan, who passed away early this month on August 8, was a familiar face to many in Luverne and around Crenshaw County.
His years as co-owner and publisher of the Luverne Journal and as a printer made him a regular presence at football games, council meetings and school events.
In the words of Mayor Ed Beasley, he was “loyal to Luverne,” always looking to improve the state of his hometown in any way he could.
Morgan started from “the bottom” when it comes to his career in journalism and printing by sweeping the floors at the Luverne Journal office at a young age.
After serving in the United States Air Force, Morgan returned to Luverne after receiving an honorable discharge in 1954.
He then went back to working at the paper, learning the profession.
Morgan first worked with his future business partner Alvin Bland in 1959, and the two would eventually purchase the Luverne Journal together in 1973.
Bland functioned as the chief editor, while Morgan performed many of the duties of a publisher.
The two worked well together, and “they always got along, never a cross word,” according to Jimmy Morgan, James’ son.
Working at a community newspaper was a natural fit for a man with a strong impulse to be involved in local events.
Jimmy Morgan remembers his father as someone who was a “big supporter of Crenshaw County.”
“He cared about Luverne, his family, friends, and his church,” Jimmy Morgan said.
“He was a treasure, and he took an interest in things. He was very giving and could talk to anyone, and was just a fixture in the community. You won’t hear anyone say a bad word about him.”
Morgan was a member of First Baptist Church for many years, as well as a Scoutmaster for a local Boy Scout troop.
Jimmy Morgan said that in his father’s later years, after his grandchildren were born, almost everyone referred to him as “Pop-Pop,” a term of endearment that even non-family members would call him by.
Morgan’s daughter Carol Jackson remembers working with and watching her father work at the linotype machine, a typesetting machine that was popular from the 19th century until the 1980s.
In those pre-digital, pre-computer days, much of the paper would be done in-house, from the writing all the way to the printing.
The Journal utilized a dark room for developing photos as well, a service that was extended to the town at large.
“The paper was very social-focused in those days,” Jackson explained, “there would be reports on the Kiwanis club; I think even reports on the bridge club would be in there. And of course Alvin’s editorials.”
Morgan and the Journal worked with local students, including assisting with and printing a paper put out by CCA’s journalism students.
“It’s a bygone era, but they are fun memories,” Jackson recalls.
“They sold business supplies in the front of the store, and I think the employees would usually be just a receptionist up front, Alvin and Dad, and usually one other when printing was going on.”
Daughter Elizabeth Flint also remembers working alongside her father in the office, helping to staple football and beauty pageant programs and watching him at the linotype machine.
The kids would watch him print and cut and paste the paper together and, red pens in hand, help to proofread.
Jackson specified that he had them correct spelling and obvious grammar errors, but avoid changing the structure and style a writer wrote the article in.
“I enjoyed our break time, too,” Flint said.
“We would walk down to Wade Wasson’s store, get a drink with hoop cheese and a pack of saltine crackers. Then we would sit and talk awhile and end the visit by lifting the lid and grabbing a few pieces of bubble gum.”
Flint remembers her father as giving, genuine and honest on the job and outside of work, saying “he loved us and Mama unconditionally.”
Morgan attended every Luverne City Council meeting for decades, always taking notes (“that was just the journalist in him”, Jackson explained) even after he and Alvin sold the Journal to Boone Newspapers in 1997.
Mayor Beasley remembers Morgan as a faithful attendee of those meetings, even reserving a chair for him.
“He was a good guy, and covered Crenshaw County for as long as I can remember,” he explained.
Morgan was the embodiment of the small town newspaperman, and a benefit to his town and all who were concerned with their town and county.