W.M. Meeks, early Gadsden newspaperman


By Danny Crownover

One of the pioneers who helped to build Gadsden was one William Marion Meeks, who succeeded in creating a large estate through superior natural endowment, great energy and industry.

Meeks was born in Floyd County, Ga., on Feb. 16, 1845. His parents moved to Cherokee County when he was 4 years old. When he was 12 years old, Meeks entered the office of The Coosa River Argus, published in Centre by L. M. Stiff, to serve and apprenticeship as a printer. Meeks completed his training in three years.

In 1860, Meeks worked at The National Democrat, a campaign newspaper that folded up when Abraham Lincoln was elected U.S. President. In the spring of 1861, Meeks became foreman of The True Flag out of Rome, Ga. The paper was suspended in the fall of that year.

Meeks then worked at The Rome Courier until early 1862 when he entered the Confederate Army with a volunteer company in Cherokee County. He was only 17 years old. At the close of the war, Meeks became connected with The Advertiser in Centre.

In November of 1866, Meeks married Mary Cothran of Centre. The couple soon afterward moved to Atlanta, Ga., where Meeks served as a journeyman printer. In 1869, the Meeks returned to Centre, where Meeks took charge of The Advertiser. Meeks soon displayed an ability that eventually made him conspicuous in Alabama journalism.

In 1869, Meeks he purchased a local Gadsden newspaper from Lon Grant, who founded it in 1867. Meeks put down a small sum and gave a mortgage on the property. The sale included good will and books and accounts. As evidence of his business ability, Meeks collected enough of the old accounts to pay the concern out of debt. From that point forward the newspaper was a financial success.

In 1887, the newspaper was consolidated with The News, which was published by W.P. Johnson.

The two men soon published the best weekly and semi-weekly in the state.

In the 1890s, Meek’s son Charles bought out Johnson. Ownership remained in the hands of the Meeks family until in 1927. Upon his death, Meeks left several valuable downtown buildings in the Gadsden as a part of his estate.

W.M. Meeks was a great sound money Democrat, believing in that political party’s principles as expounded by then U.S. President Grover Cleveland. The paper was often boycotted for those beliefs, and opposition was fierce at times. But Meeks never faltered.

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