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Coopwood: Saluting a Son of the Mississippi Delta, Bill Rose

Meek School of Journalism and New Media, Dean Will Norton; Bill Rose, Charles Overby
Meek School of Journalism and New Media, Dean Will Norton; Bill Rose, Charles Overby

This past Wednesday night, Cindy and I attended the Silver Em award ceremony at the Overby Center at Ole Miss.

This year’s award was presented to Shelby native, Bill Rose for his longtime journalism career. This is the highest award the Meek School of Journalism and New Media can give someone and the award is given to those who have made a major contribution to the newspaper business in Mississippi. Another Bolivar County native once received this award as well, the late Larry Speakes of Merigold who was President Ronald Reagan’s spokesman.

Bill’s 34 year career in the newspaper and magazine business led him to that moment in Oxford.

After graduating from Ole Miss in 1969, Bill returned home to the Delta and started his career at the Bolivar Commercial in Cleveland before moving on to the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville where he worked under prominent newspaper publisher, Hodding Carter. In 1975, Bill moved to Florida starting off as a reporter for the Miami Herald. Many may remember Gary Hart’s failed presidential bid in 1988 when he was the Democratic front runner. Hart’s bid for the presidency ended when Bill uncovered an affair Hart was having with a woman named, Donna Rice. Bill also took on the mob in South Florida and through his reporting that led to the break-up of several organized crime circles. From there, he climbed the ladder inside of the Herald organization running their magazines and other newspapers. During his watch, Bill’s publications received many awards and two Pulitzers. The list is endless of the great work Bill accomplished during his career.

Born and raised in my town of Shelby, Bill’s father, “Mr. Willard”, owned Willard’s Drug Store down the sidewalk from my house which was the place in town to get a milkshake, Coke, or purchase the latest comic book. After Bill left Shelby, I didn’t hear much about him until the early nineties when one afternoon I received a phone call from my godmother in Shelby, Lola Denton.

“I have something I want you to read,” she said. “Bill Rose has written a marvelous article on Shelby.”

I knew Bill worked in the newspaper business, but I wondered why his writing of Shelby meant so much to Lola.

“He’s now high up at the Miami Herald,” she said surprised that I didn’t already know this. I quickly got her point … It was significant that a boy from the small Delta town of Shelby was now helping to run one of America’s largest newspapers.

Lola sent me the article and it was very moving. After many years away, Bill had returned to Shelby for a few days and in the article he had written about the Shelby he had known growing up. Then, Bill compared those idyllic times to the modern day Shelby that like so many small Delta towns had lost its luster.

After his time at the Miami Herald, Bill retired and moved to Oxford were he became a visiting professor in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media as well as a fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. That is when he and I became reacquainted.

Back in 2009, I noticed Oxford didn’t have a Sunday morning newspaper, so I started one called, The Oxford Enterprise. Unfortunately, my timing could not have been worse as the recession hit hard during that period which made advertising dollars hard to come by. While subscriptions and newsstand sales increased each month, those tall advertising dollars we desperately needed never arrived and we closed the paper a year later. However, while The Oxford Enterprise was in business, Bill provided me with great advice each and every week on what he thought we should or should not do with the paper. I learned a lot from my hometown friend that one year and thanks to Bill, I use what he taught me to this day overseeing our weekly newspaper here in Cleveland, The Cleveland Current, our regional lifestyle magazine, Delta Magazine, and our business magazine, Delta Business Journal.

Over the years, my county here in the Mississippi Delta has produced some very special individuals who have gone out into the world and made a significant contribution that in effect, has bettered our country. Bill Rose is one of these.

Congratulations to our native son on a job well done.

Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current.

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