Hall set to honor STJ journalist

Published 5:42 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In February 1966, the Alabama Press Association selected then editor and publisher of The Selma Times-Journal, Roswell Falkenberry, as the Outstanding Daily Journalist for 1965.

In the Associated Press article announcing the award, Falkenberry, who died in 2004, “won acclaim for his role in trying to keep Selma on an even keel during the trying civil rights campaign, which resulted in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

Last week, the Alabama Press Association again announced another honor for the late distinguished journalist, when they said Falkenberry was one of two individuals named to the Alabama Press Association’s Hall of Honor.

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A ceremony inducting Falkenberry, and the late Barbara Hamrick Blalock of The Cullman Times, will be held Saturday, Jan. 26 at Auburn University.

Falkenberry retired from The Selma Times-Journal in 1973, after a 40-year career in journalism.

He began his career in the advertising department in 1936, and continued at the newspaper rising to editor and publisher at the time of his retirement.

Falkenberry was active in the community serving on the boards of the Selma YMCA, the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Falkenberry was also a member of a local bi-racial committee during the voting rights movement in 1964 and 1965.

He was a strong advocate for change giving every citizen the right to vote and access to public accommodations.

Renowned storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died in June 2011, worked with Falkenberry as a member of the Times-Journal’s newsroom.

Before her death, Windham submitted a letter to the APA’s nomination committee, recommending Falkenberry be inducted.

“Roswell took a brave, courageous stand as editor of The Selma Times-Journal and covered the events in Selma and surroundings well,” Windham wrote. “His only instruction to his reporters and photographers was, ‘write and picture the truth.”

One of Falkenberry’s children, Anne Knight, who lives in Selma, said her family were thrilled with the news their father had been selected for this honor.

“We could not be more proud or more happy that he is being recognized,” Knight said. “I — and my siblings — grew up at the Times-Journal at a time when it was still hot type and kind of the old time days, but it was kind of a second home. We loved it and we would go down to the newspaper on Saturday nights sometimes to help get Sunday’s edition out.”

Falkenberry’s leadership of the Times-Journal during the civil rights demonstrations and events of the mid-1960s attracted tremendous accolades from his colleagues and others, but drew extreme criticism from some of the more moderate, established citizens in towns — many of who were subscribers and advertisers of the Times-Journal and had wanted the newspaper to ignore the events many said were started by “outsiders.”

“He was a very moderate man, but he was an honest man. He basically said we are a people of law and this is the law of the land and we have to abide by it, support each other and move on,” Knight said. “I and my siblings are very proud of my dad and the stand that he took during a difficult time. He loved the Times-Journal and loved Selma even more.”

Jamie Wallace, who worked in the Times-Journal’s newsroom during Falkenberry’s leadership, offered his endorsement of Falkenberry’s nomination letter.

“[Roswell was] a strong advocate of community newspapers, his defining moment came in 1964 –1965 during the voting rights movement. As a member of the local bi-racial committee he was a strong advocate for change giving every citizen the right to vote and access to public accommodations,” Wallace wrote. “The paper’s editorial stand reflected that and its devotion to covering events in the face of very vocal opposition from some members of the community proved strong leadership from the very top of management.”

Knight said many of her family members are planning to attend the January ceremony, which will be held in the newspaper reading room of Auburn’s Ralph Brown Draughon Library.