Long-time newspaper employee retires

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 3, 2002

There are very few people who can claim to have spent nearlyhalf a century in one endeavor. DAILY LEADER Production ManagerRobert “Bobby” Ferrell is one of them, but his time with thenewspaper is drawing to a close.

Ferrell will officially retire from the newspaper after 45 yearson June 5.

“I’m going to do a lot of things that I want to do,” he said. “Imay take a part-time job later, but for now I just want to enjoymyself.

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“I’ll miss everyone in my DAILY LEADER family, but I lookforward to being able to spend more time at home helping Margueritespoil our four grandkids,” he said.

Ferrell said his career would not have been possible, however,without the support of his family.

“There are a lot of people I’m grateful to for all they’ve donefor me over the years, but the one I thank the most is my wife,Marguerite, for standing by me and uplifting my spirits when I wastired or stressed out,” he said. “Also, a special thanks to my kids– Laura, Tony and Donna Jo — for being so understanding about meworking long hours and not being able to spend more time with themwhen they were young.”

Ferrell said he is looking forward to retirement, but wondershow he will adapt to life without the newspaper.

“I’ll always be grateful to the Jacobs family for giving me theopportunity to have a career here. It’s been a good life,” he said.”I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and any success I’ve had in thisbusiness is because I’ve always been surrounded by goodemployees.”

The employees, Ferrell said, are what he’ll miss the most. Thestaff of the newspaper, especially the Jacobses, have always beenfamily to him.

“One of the things I’ve enjoyed being a part of was watchingBill (Jacobs) grow up from a little kid sitting in my lap, watchingme run a linotype machine, to where he is now,” Ferrell said. “Iwatched him start first grade, finish high school, graduate fromcollege, and then come back to the DAILY LEADER, eventuallypurchasing it from his mother and father.”

Charles R. “Chuck” and Pat Jacobs, former publishers of theDAILY LEADER, say that sense of family is reciprocal.

“We’ve thought the world of Bobby all these years,” Pat Jacobssaid. “We’ve enjoyed knowing his family.”

They said his retirement was well-earned.

“I loved my work with the newspaper, but I love my retirementtoo,” Chuck Jacobs said. “I hope he does also.”

DAILY LEADER Publisher Bill Jacobs said he loses more than anemployee with Ferrell’s retirement.

“Bobby is not only a loyal employee to the DAILY LEADER, but heis my confidant and friend,” he said. “Through the years I havedepended on him to bounce ideas off of or to get a feel for theopinion or reaction of the community to things the newspaper wasdoing at the time. I am going to miss him deeply. He has knowledgenot only of the newspaper business, but also the community, thatcannot be replaced.”

Managing Editor Nanette Laster, who’s worked with Ferrell fornearly 13 years, is another who will miss him.

“He has always been a great supporter of the news staff and morethan once has tipped us to a good story,” Laster said. “Forty-fiveyears in the newspaper business is an education like no other. Hehas a wealth of information about Brookhaven and Lincoln County.Plus, it’s under his leadership that the DAILY LEADER’s ProductionDepartment has become one of the best, if not the best, inMississippi.”

Laster said that she, too, will miss Ferrell’s friendship.

“I’ve been a guest at the Ferrell house several times, andthey’ve always made me feel like family,” she said.

Others in the newspaper staff will miss him as well.

“I’m going to miss him,” said Pressroom Supervisor MalcolmStewart. “I’ve dreaded this day. I’ve worked with Bobby for morethan 19 years, and he’s been a good friend as well as asupervisor.”

“Bobby has been a good friend and working companion for 32years,” said Sports Editor Tom Goetz. “He has always been deeplyconcerned about the day-to-day operation of the DAILY LEADER in alldepartments. He really cares about his fellow employees. His jobcarried a lot of responsibility, but he also had a lot of patience,especially when there were breakdowns in other departments. I willmiss his presence very much. He always supported me and encouragedmy efforts in the sports department.”

“For the past 22 years, I have had the pleasure of working witha very fine Christian man,” said Sports Writer Richard Dube. “Whenyou walk through the door, Bobby greats you with a smile and a’good morning’ each day. Bobby, to me, is the heart of thisnewspaper. I truly hate to see him go. Quite a few people have comeand gone at the newspaper, but the ones who stay the longest arethe ones you develop real friendships with.

“There’s a lot of things I’ll miss about him,” Dube said. “Hisability to find my typos on the sports page before it hits thepress, his love for Mississippi State sports and his ‘Bah, Humbug’sweatshirt that he puts on when Christmas time is near. Most ofall, I’ll miss his friendship, his courtesy, his humor, hisgenerosity and his love for his fellow man.”

The DAILY LEADER family also includes those who left before,such as Sis Brennan, who worked with Ferrell for many years andretired as the city editor in 1988.

“I’m so happy for Bobby,” Brennan said. “I can’t believe he’sready to retire. Bobby was always so pleasant to work with andwilling to work with us when we needed something. I wish Bobby thebest in his retirement.”

Ferrell got his start working part-time with the LEADER-TIMES onthe mailing crew in late 1956. It was a printing incident in 1957that put him into full-time employment.

“One night we were printing and everyone had left but thepressman and I. Then he had to leave and left the press running,”Ferrell said. “I saw something wrong with the front page, it wascutting off the bottom of the page, and I did the only thing I knewhow to do — I hit the stop button.”

When Joe Lee, who owned the paper at the time, returned andasked why the press had stopped, Ferrell said, he explained whathad happened. Lee was impressed because Ferrell had saved thecompany a lot of money in wasted newspapers. He hired Ferrellfull-time as a handyman for $25 a week.

“That didn’t last too long,” Ferrell said. “I started working inthe mat room, casting the hot metal for ads.”

Chuck and Pat Jacobs purchased the newspaper in 1958 and Ferrellstayed with them. He learned how to operate the linotype machinethat year.

“We’re all going to miss him,” Chuck Jacobs said. “He’s beenwith us through all the ups and downs. He’s from the age when weactually set type by hand.”

“He joined us a young teenager and always had a good attitude.He worked hard,” added Pat Jacobs.

One of the funniest things to occur in the early years, Ferrellsaid, was that during an economic slowdown in 1961 he was laid offbecause he was the junior employee. He left the newspaper at theclose of business on a Friday with a send-off party. At 6:30 a.m.Monday, Chuck Jacobs called him at home and asked him back becausea linotype operator had quit during the weekend.

“I kept the gifts,” Ferrell said with a smile.

Another funny incident occurred in 1975, Ferrell said. He was inthe hospital recovering from back surgery.

“I was just coming out of the anesthesia when Chuck took my handand said I was the new production manager,” he said. “I didn’t evenknow where I was or what was happening.”

In fact, the position had just been created to funnel all thedifferent aspects of production under one department.

The move proved to be a good one. Under Ferrell’s leadership,the production department has prospered. In recent years, thedepartment has won the Mississippi Press Association Print QualityAward for all dailies two consecutive years, among otherawards.

“One of the things I’m proud of is winning the Print QualityAward for the Southern Newspaper Association, which is for allpublications in the South, and a few in the North, under 100,000circulation,” Ferrell said.

Technology is the primary change to affect the newspaper duringhis time here, he said.

“We used to work 60 to 70 hours a week to produce one and thentwo issues a week,” he said. “Now, we publish six issues a week inless time than that.”

It takes a unique employee to be able to advance technologicallyas fast as Ferrell had to and continue to put out an award-winningproduct, Chuck Jacobs said.

“He was a very capable person to be able to move on through allthe technological changes,” Chuck Jacobs said.

Technology won’t, however, have much to do with his futureplans. Ferrell said he intends to work around the house and in thegarden and do “a lot of fishing and a lot of hunting.”