George Shannon (journalist)

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George Shannon
Born George Washington Shannon
(1914-02-20)February 20, 1914
El Dorado, Arkansas, US
Died April 25, 1998(1998-04-25) (aged 84)
Shreveport, Louisiana, US
Resting place Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport
Nationality American
Occupation Newspaper editor and journalist
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Sidney Anita "Nita" Pearce Shannon
Parent(s) Henry Heywood, Sr., and Carrie Lee Olson Shannon
Notes
Shreveport's premier conservative journalist from 1953 to 1971

George Washington Shannon (February 20, 1914 – April 25, 1998) was a conservative journalist from, principally, Shreveport, Louisiana.

Background[edit]

Shannon was born in El Dorado, the seat of government of Union County in southern Arkansas. Shannon had four siblings, Inez S. Cobb (1907-1993) of Refugio in southeastern Texas, Louise Shannon Thorne Vaughn (1909-2000) of North Little Rock, Arkansas, Henry H. Shannon, Jr., of El Dorado, and Eula Pearl Shannon Gilcrease (1917-2013), who was born in El Dorado and lived after 1936 in Shreveport with her husband, Duncan M. Gilcrease (1914-1974).[1]

Career[edit]

Shannon launched his career as a reporter and sports editor at The El Dorado News-Times, one of the Clyde E. Palmer newspapers, since known as WEHCO Media, Inc.[2] In 1935, he joined the staff of The Shreveport Times, a morning daily, and became assistant city editor. In 1938, he was hired by The Alexandria Daily Town Talk,[3] then an afternoon daily and Sunday morning publication in Alexandria. Now a morning paper, The Town Talk is still the largest newspaper in Central Louisiana. The veteran Alexandria managing editor, Adras LaBorde, an inductee of the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, came to The Town Talk after Shannon had already left.[4]

Shannon's career was interrupted by service in the United States Army in World War II. Afterwards, he joined the staff of the since defunct Shreveport Journal, an afternoon Monday-Saturday daily. Shannon was named editor of The Journal in July 1953 and retained that position until April 1971.[3] During this period, The Journal was owned by the family of its publisher, Douglas F. Attaway; the publication was regionally known for its staunchly conservative editorials.[5]

Shannon urged the southern states to leave the Democratic Party. He proposed "free electors" in 1964, by which the Democratic State Central Committee would designate either unpledged delegates or delegates pledged to a conservative candidate, rather than the official party choice, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. He claimed that then Governor Jimmie Davis, a former Shreveporter, could have arranged for the unpledged slate to have been the official party designation in 1960, instead of the Kennedy-Johnson national slate.[6] In 1948, Strom Thurmond, then the governor of South Carolina had carried the four states, including Louisiana, in which he was the official Democratic nominee in the general election against Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey. Shannon covered the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California, which nominated U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona to challenge President Johnson. The convention marked a defeat for the eastern wing of the party, many of whose delegates coalesced around either Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York or William Scranton of Pennsylvania.[7] When the unpledged elector movement failed to develop. Shannon editorially endorsed Goldwater, and Thurmond defected to the Republican Party.

Even in state politics, Shannon had sometimes broken with the Democrats, as in the 1964 gubernatorial general election, when The Journal urged support for the conservative Republican candidate, Charlton Lyons of Shreveport. Lyons ran strongly in northwest Louisiana but was decisively defeated statewide by the Democrat John McKeithen. Shannon opposed moderate and liberal Republicans, whose presence in the party, he believed, served to discourage Southerners at the time from switching partisan affiliation. However, in the 1961 special election for the United States House of Representatives for Louisiana's 4th congressional district, Shannon had penned the editorial supporting the Democrat Joe Waggonner, who defeated Charlton Lyons to claim the seat vacated by the death of veteran U.S. Representative Overton Brooks. Shannon wrote that "citizens who understand the principles of states' rights are not likely to be fooled by the claim that the election of Waggonner could be viewed as a victory for the Kennedy regime."[8]

The Journal opposed most Kennedy-Johnson policies in its editorials. In 1968, the paper endorsed the American Independent Party presidential candidate, then former Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama, who won Louisiana's then ten electoral votes by plurality but lost the election nationally to Republican Richard M. Nixon. Wallace came to Shreveport in 1971 to speak at Shannon's "appreciation dinner".

After he left The Journal, Shannon was associated for several years with The Citizen, a monthly magazine of the Citizens' Council published in the capital city of Jackson, Mississippi. The Citizen succeeded the former newspaper called The Citizens' Council, published from 1955 to 1961.[9] Self-identified as "the official journal of the Citizens' Councils of America," the publication opposed the civil rights movement. The Citizen began in 1961 and halted production in January 1979, following the demise of segregation across the South.[10] Shannon c. 1977 returned to Shreveport, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Attaway sold The Journal in 1976 to Shreveport businessman Charles T. Beaird, an avowed liberal Republican who had once served on the Caddo Parish Police Jury, since renamed and reorganized as the Caddo Parish Commission. Under Beaird and editor Stanley R. Tiner, a Democrat and later an unsuccessful congressional candidate who was retained from Attaway's staff, the editorial policy of The Journal switched firmly to the political left. Beaird announced the closure of The Journal on January 29, 1991, effective March 30, after ninety-six years of production. In the previous decade, the newspaper had lost more than half its circulation from a high of nearly 40,000 to barely 16,000 as well as vastly reduced advertising sales. "There just comes a time when it becomes uneconomical to go on. It was a very tough, sad decision," Beaird said.[11]

Shannon was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the National Conference of Editorial Writers, since known as the Association of Opinion Journalists.

Personal life[edit]

Shannon was a member of the Downtown Rotary International of Shreveport, one of the largest civic clubs in the nation. He was a past president of the Shreveport chapter of the Reserve Officers Association, an organization formed in 1922 to promote national security issues.

Shannon's wife, the former Sidney Anita "Nita" Pearce (1906–1996), was a native of Bunkie in Avoyelles Parish who graduated from Bunkie High School and attended Alexandria Business College. The couple met while they were both living in Alexandria. In 1962, the couple sued the Shreveport Transit Company after Mrs. Shannon was injured on a municipal trolley. They collected some $12,000 for pain and medical bills but tried to amend the suit to claim $30,000. At the time of the accident, a student driver was behind the wheel of the trolley.[12]

Mrs. Shannon died of complications following an accidental fall at their Shreveport residence. Shannon died in Shreveport of a sudden illness at the age of eighty-four nearly two years after his wife's passing. His services were held in the Frost Chapel of the First Baptist Church of Shreveport on April 28, 1998. The couple is interred at Forest Park East Cemetery in Shreveport. The Shannons had no children.[3]

Shannon's archival materials, including a 1977 oral history interview, are located at the Noel Memorial Library of Louisiana State University in Shreveport.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Eula Pearl Shannon Gilcrease (sister of George W. Shannon)". The Shreveport Times. February 17, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  2. ^ Rex Nelson (February 10, 2012). "Walter Hussman, Newspaperman to the Core". rexnelsonsouthernfried.com. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c George Shannon obituary, The Shreveport Times, April 27, 1998
  4. ^ "Bordelonville native among six to be inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame January 28", Avoyelles Today, Marksville, Louisiana, January 4, 2012
  5. ^ "Shreveport Journal Collection, 1921-1990". scripts.lsus.edu. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Committee key to Electors, Shannon Says", Minden Press, Minden, Louisiana, August 5, 1963, p. 1
  7. ^ "Barry Cops GOP Banner for Conservatives", Shreveport Journal, July 16, 1964, p. 1
  8. ^ "Shreveport Journal Endorses Waggonner", reprinted in Minden Herald, December 14, 1961, p. 8
  9. ^ Euan Hague. "The Citizens' Council". citizenscouncils.com. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Periodicals: The Citizen". olemiss.edu. Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Shreveport Journal ends publication after 96 years", Minden Press-Herald, March 30, 1991, p. 1
  12. ^ Shannon v. Shreveport Transit Co., 149 So.2d 206 (La. App. 2 Cir., 1963)
  13. ^ "Shannon, George". lsus.edu. 1977. Retrieved June 25, 2015.