Millard Grimes (ABJ ’51), a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor/publisher of nearly three dozen publications and ardent supporter of The Red & Black, died May 3, 2022 at the age of 92.
Grimes received the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from Grady College in 2007 and was inducted into the Grady Fellowship in its inaugural class in 2008.
“Millard represents an era of media entrepreneurship in which news companies took big swings, some hits and some misses, and Millard won way more than he lost,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “He was always a presence in Athens and at Grady College. I took many a wonderful call from him, and will miss him a great deal.”
While a student at the University of Georgia, Grimes applied at the student newspaper, The Red & Black, during one of his first weeks of school and served all four years, including working as editor in 1950. He later named a member of the paper’s first Board of Directors, when the paper became a student-run publication in 1981 and he served on the Board for eight years.
Working at The Red & Black “was the best training ground for newspaper people that you could have had,” said Grimes in a 2009 interview.
During his time as a student at UGA, Grimes was associate editor of Pandora yearbook in 1951 and was a member of the Gridiron Society, Sigma Delta Chi Honorary and Chi Psi social fraternity.
“Millard Grimes was a kind, thoughtful person who believed in the value of newspapers to a community and protecting and affording free speech to all,” said long-time friend A. Mark Smith, Sr (ABJ ’66), president & CEO of Smith Communications Inc. “He was a special friend to Grady College and helped many a student find a job. He was a special person.”
Grimes began his love for newspapers as a high school student starting at The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia) as a proofreader and copy boy, and continuing with increased responsibilities during and after college. He was a copy editor on The Columbus Ledger staff in 1954-55 when the newspaper was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for revealing government corruption in nearby Phenix City, Alabama. By the time the Pulitzer Prize was announced, Grimes had decided to leave Columbus to start the weekly Phenix Citizen. He returned to Columbus in 1956 working for newspapers in that city for several years, culminating in his job as editor-in-chief of Columbus Enquirer from 1963 to 1969.
Over the course of the next 50 years, Grimes would serve in a number of publisher and editor roles of numerous publications throughout the southeast. In 1977 he founded Grimes Publications, a company that owned and operated more than 30 daily and weekly newspapers in Georgia and Alabama including The Rockdale Citizen (Conyers, Georgia), Clayton News Daily (Jonesboro, Georgia) and the weekly Athens Observer, among others. Grimes also owned and operated two statewide magazines, Georgia Trend and Georgia Journal, of which Grimes was publisher and editor from 1988 to 1998.
“Millard Grimes bought and sold, launched and expanded more newspapers than I can recall,” Davis said.
Not surprisingly, Grimes read three or four newspapers daily for many years, according to Smith.
Grimes served as president of the Georgia Press Association in 1985-86; president of the Magazine Association of Georgia in 1996-97; and vice president of the Alabama Press Association in 1981-82.
In 2020, at the age of 90-years-old, Grimes self-published his first novel, “The Last New Dealer.”
At the time of his Fellowship induction in 2008, Grimes shared his views about the state of the newspaper industry. He pulled the following quote from the book “The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers since World War II,” that he wrote in 1985.
Grimes began by quoting the French historian Alexis De Tocqueville: “A newspaper can drop the same thought into a thousand minds at the same moment. A newspaper is an adviser that does not require to be sought, but comes to you without distracting your private affairs. Newspapers therefore become more necessary as men become more equal individuals. To suppose that newspapers only serve to protect freedom is to diminish their importance; they maintain civilization.”
Grimes continued with his thoughts: “De Tocqueville wrote those words in the 1830s, when he could not have imagined how much more pervasive newspapers and other media would become. The demise of newspapers and the printed word has been forecast during all of the 60 years I have worked in print journalism, and if that time is finally at hand, it will be a shame, not only for newspapers, but for “maintaining civilization,” a task the printed word still performs most ably as De Tocqueville recognized so many years ago.”
A nearly 90-minute interview with Grimes can be viewed here. It was filmed in 2009 as part of the Georgia Politics Oral History Project through the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at UGA.
The official obituary for Millard Grimes can be read here.
Grimes and his wife, Charlotte, have three children.