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From the White County News online
Archived Thursday, May 25, 2006
Henry and Linda McMillian, a local young couple with a five-month old baby, started the White County News in 1968 from scratch, with just a $1,000 business loan and a lot of determination.
“I just knew I could do it,” said Henry, who was the first editor and publisher. A native of Demorest and a graduate of the journalism school at the University of Georgia, Henry, 28 at the time, had been working for the Atlanta Suburban Reporter and wanted to get back home. His wife, Linda (Hood) McMillan, is a Sautee native. She had been working for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in Atlanta.
“We were getting back to the mountains,” Henry said. “A lot was starting to happen here and I think the county was ready for a new paper.”
Although Cleveland already had a newspaper, the Cleveland Courier, the county and Alpine Helen just were becoming a focus for tourism and the McMillans saw opportunity. The Courier was published by J.P. “Jim” Davidson and continued to be printed on a hot-type letterpress.
“It was only a few pages and I think he must have had a hard time running pictures,” Linda, who served as assistant editor, said. “So we ran lots and lots of pictures.”
“Most people are in the paper when they are born and when they die,” Henry said. “We tried to sandwich a few times in-between.”
Back then, Linda said, all the photographs were taken with Polaroid cameras, that would instantly print out a photo that could be shot by the giant press camera that photographed the entire page.
News editor Ham Warner covered stories across the county, working free except for the cost of Polaroid film. Linda said that the paper was like a sort of “community bulletin board” with lots of pictures of birthdays and school happenings and weddings and watermelon cuttings and any other event that folks in White County cared about. “We knew if we were going to survive we couldn't be controversial,” Linda said.
The McMillans said the newspaper business consisted of long hours and hard work. “We nearly worked ourselves to death,” Linda said. Their second child also was born while they owned the paper. Mrs. W.H. Postell provided a community column from Kellum Valley and babysat for the McMillans. Shirley McDonald helped out too, the couple said. She worked at the health department but had a strong interest in the newspaper and in current events from the start.
As the McMillans got production of a weekly newspaper established they got another loan to buy a “just-a-writer.”
“I'd type everything in and it would come out in justified columns,” Linda said. Then we could paste it on the page.” They hired Sandra Gerrells, just out of high school, to help type and to cover stories. “I went to the high school and told them I wanted their smartest student and best typist,” Henry said.
The newspaper was printed by the Gwinnett Daily News and the Athens Banner Herald. “Amilee Graves, the mayor of Clarkesville and the publisher of the Tri-County Advertiser, was a tremendous help to us,” Henry said. Their daughter, Susan Amilee, is named after her.
That newspaper, like the White County News, eventually was bought by Community Newspapers, Inc. The Tri-County Advertiser merged with the Northeast Georgian in 1990.
Henry sold all the ads for the newspaper himself. “That was my least favorite part,” he said. “In those days, you'd just walk the town (Cleveland) on foot and then you'd go to Helen. You basically knew everyone and knew whether they could afford to advertise.”
Head's Store, which was run by Ed Head and was located where Regions Bank is now, would trade with the McMillans - advertising for groceries.
Even back in 1968, there were the hot-button issues that the newspaper had to cover. One, Linda said, was school consolidation. “At that time, there were neighborhood elementary schools in Nacoochee and in White Creek,” she said. “I went to school at Nacoochee. Those folks did not want to give up that school.”
Everyone, she said, was excited about the remodeling of Helen. “Helen always had the most colorful politicians,” Henry said.
The News worked with the school system and even got the high school band to sell subscriptions to raise money for new uniforms.
Henry is proud of large number of subscribers the paper had - 1,700. Each paper had to stuck into a labeling machine by hand for mailing.
In 1970, Henry said, “I got a good offer.” He sold the paper then-WRWH owner Alton Brown.
Brown served as publisher and managing editor of the paper until he died in 1973. He was a crusader for the environment, depicting trashy roadsides in the paper weekly and campaigning for the removal of junk cars and the establishment of a sanitary landfill. His son is Alton Brown, is now the TV cook on the Food Channel. (He was no relation to the current county manager, Alton Brown). Brown died at the age of 38 at his home. Although his death was ruled a suicide, a letter from “a friend” was printed in the June 28, 1973, issue of the paper, including this statement: “Though Al Brown's untimely death may never be explained and those responsible never brought to justice, through circumstances beyond the control of ordinary citizens, those of us who loved him know he did not live in vain.”
On Aug. 16, 1973, the White County News was bought by Community Newspapers Inc., which owns the paper today. CNI currently owns 32 newspapers in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.
After they sold the White County News, Henry McMillan went to work for the First National Bank in Cornelia and then sold real estate. The couple also operated the Red, White and Blue Flea Market on Hwy. 129S for several years.
The couple, now retired, has two children, Mike, 38, and Susan, 36. Linda enjoys pottery and Henry often brings photos of big fish he has caught to the newspaper.
Back in ‘68, the McMillians say, they enjoyed the small-town atmosphere. “Everybody knew who everybody and their families were,” Linda said.
She said they still enjoy living in the Kellum Valley area of White County today, “So many interesting, creative people have moved in,” Linda said. “I hate to see the mountains developed, though. I guess it's our destiny to change, but I hope we can protect our environment a little better.”
Last Edited on 08/27/2010