The Huntsville Times has served the city of Huntsville and the state for more than 100 years. Among notable editorials and stories, the Times took a stand against Gov. George Wallace's plan to close public schools to avoid integration, and it broke the story that James Earl Ray planned to plead guilty in the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and accept a 99-year sentence.
The Times was launched as the Huntsville Daily Times by Jacob Emory Pierce in 1910. Pierce filled multiple roles, from editor and business manager to reporter and office boy, and his wife, Nannie, served as president. The Times reported on such events as World War I on the printed page and posted news stories on a billboard in front of the Times' original building on Holmes Avenue and Greene Street. As the staff increased, Pierce saw the need for better production facilities. In 1928, he constructed a new 12-story building, topped with a penthouse, that at the time was Huntsville's tallest structure. Now known as the Old Times Building, it is an art-deco facility that serves commercial clients and has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1931, during the Great Depression, Pierce defaulted on loans, losing ownership of both the paper and the building. In this first management turnover, the Birmingham News bought the Times at auction. In 1935, a Memphis jury convicted Pierce on charges of fraud and impersonating a government official arising from his work for a different newspaper. Pierce testified he had been selling newspaper advertisements to residents of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee who backed the Tennessee Valley Authority, but others claimed he tried to sell TVA stock. Pierce died in 1952 and was buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville.
Meanwhile, the Times flourished under the guidance of the Birmingham News. Reese Amis joined the staff in 1931 and removed the "Daily" in the newspaper's name because it had never been published daily. He was hailed as "legendary" in the Times' centennial issue for the 27 years he served as both editor and publisher. Advance Publications' S.I. Newhouse Newspaper Division bought the Times in 1955, and the newspaper moved to a new building the following year. In 1958, the Times published an extra edition to celebrate the launch of Explorer 1, the first satellite launched by the U.S. space program. The booster that carried it into space was a four-stage Juno rocket built under the direction of German scientist Wernher von Braun at Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal. The first Saturday edition appeared in 1960 and circulation reached 35,000 by 1962.
In 1963, the Times published editorials in opposition to Alabama Gov. George Wallace's order to close public schools rather than integrate them, an action aimed at stopping the scheduled entry of four African American students into Huntsville city schools. In 1969, the Times scored its biggest news scoop, when reporter Chris Bell broke the story about James Earl Ray's plan to plead guilty in the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. after getting a vital tip from Alabama author and journalist William Bradford Huie, a neighbor in the nearby town of Hartselle.
The Times' growth continued into the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, with Sunday-delivery subscriptions rising from 65,000 copies in the early 1970s to 80,000 in 1996. In addition, the Times building underwent a $25 million expansion in 1989 to add a new printing press and distribution center and to renovate the office space for the news, advertising, and circulation departments.
In March 1993, reporter Deborah Storey published a story about the plight of a friend who had suffered and died of AIDS. The woman had contracted HIV in a sexual relationship with a man who never told her he carried it. Storey maintained a close relationship with her subject, a former high school classmate, throughout her two-year struggle and ultimate death. Storey's article drew a passionate response from others who been infected the same way or by the same person and ultimately led to the passage of legislation in the state criminalizing knowing exposure of others to the HIV virus and requiring disclosure from those infected with HIV to sexual partners.
In March 1998, a Times series on the pollution of the Tennessee River, titled "The River Defiled," won the Earth Society Foundation's first media award. In 2002, Melinda Gorham became the first woman appointed managing editor. In 2004, the Times, which had been produced as an afternoon newspaper, shifted to morning publication.
In 2012, Newhouse converted the Times from a seven-day-a-week print publication schedule to Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday publication, increasing its Web presence on the Al.com site. The changes were made in response to a general decline in newspaper revenues across the nation; indeed, the Times' circulation was down 15 percent from five years earlier. Although Newhouse has said that it will work to find positions for employees, some jobs will be lost in the transition. According to the newspaper's web site, the Times and its online edition at Al.com estimate an average 97,708 readers view the paper and Web site daily, with an average Sunday readership of 143,641. Similar changes were made at two other Alabama newspapers owned by Newhouse, the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register.
The Times publishes a dozen guides and magazines in addition to the newspaper. They include publications on television shows and home
decorating distributed periodically along with the newspaper as well as publications for the local association of builders
and real-estate agents. Direct-mail services are also available for advertisers.
"The Times of Our Lives: The Centennial Edition of The Huntsville Times," Huntsville Times, March 21, 2010.
Auburn University at Montgomery
Published August 29, 2012
Last updated March 13, 2013