George W. Harper
Submitted by Lori Thornton
The Hinds County Gazette, founded in 1844 by George W. Harper, is the second oldest newspaper in Mississippi publishing on a weekly basis. For half a century, nothing stopped the proud editor from printing his weekly newspaper. However, there were several major events in town that caused temporary problems. First, the big fire of 1858 burned the office of the Gazette to the ground. Secondly, the devastation brought about during the Civil War. During the Battle of Raymond, the Yankees destroyed the newspaper presses by throwing them in the city well.
George W. Harper was a native of Virginia but moved to Hinds County in the 1840s. After arriving in Raymond, he founded the Hinds County Gazette, one of the most popular newspapers of its time. For fifty years, until his death in 1894, George Harper recorded the history of Raymond and its people.
In the 1850s, Harper's editorials in the Gazette foretold the coming disaster in the South if secession came to pass. He was an avowed unionist who used his clout with the Whigs to forcefully espouse compromise and reason while warning of the rise of a "secessionized and abolitionized" Democratic Party.
Yet, when the war came, Harper followed his political beliefs - the survival and protection of the Union - while refusing to abandon family and friends in a cause that he knew would ultimately fall.
He wore the uniform of his people, suffered with them and shared in their despair - yet, without a doubt angered them by refusing to espouse the hard-line propaganda of Jefferson Davis in his newspaper. He rose to the ranks of Major in the Confederate Army.
In a final indignity, Harper would see his presses dumped in the town well by Union troops after Raymond's blood battle, presses which had spread the world of harmony and compromise even as Union forces had begun to slowly destroy the South's economy.
After the war, Harper forgave but would not forget. Both as country editor and later as a state legislator, he lived the creed he published on May 3, 1867: "Politically the white and black man of the South occupy the same positions under the laws.."
The legacy of Major Harper, who faced a choice over the bond of blood and the bounds of reason in his weekly newspaper, lived on in his family. The literary genius passed to great-grandson, Willie Morris, a Rhode scholar who at age 33 became the youngest editor-in-chief of Harper's, the nations oldest magazine, and his great-great-grandson, David Rae Morris, who would get ink on his hands at The Scott County Times in 1983. Willie Morris is now recognized as one of Mississippi's greatest writers.
Following the death of Major Harper in 1894, the Hinds County Gazette continued to be published by members of the Harper family. Following the turn of the century, the Gazette was purchased by Thomas Keith. The home of the Gazette was the old Chancery Building now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Max Tullos on Town Square. The Keith Family has continued to publish the Gazette in the tradition of its first owner - with truth and honesty. Today the paper is owned and edited by Mary Ann Keith, granddaughter of Thomas Keith.
Information from Rebecca B. Drake, Hinds County Gazette and Sid Salter, Clarion Ledger.
Page Created January 4, 2006
Copyright 2006 Jane Combs All Rights Reserved