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Jesup, Georgia 31545

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Elliott Bracks purple pen has influenced thousands of journalists

Math wasnt my best subject, but I know a common denominator when I see one. On a raw, winter day, four newspapermen huddled in my office to strategize. Tom DINK Wood, Alan and NeSMITH Eric NeSmith Chairman and I would not have been assembled without Elliott Brack, the common denominator, in the equation. He came into my life in 1962, when I walked into his West Walnut Street office, a stones throw from the rail lines that split my hometown. The sign on the door read Wayne County Press. But the ambiance of the former tenant, Strickland Feed and Seed, still lingered. Elliott was fresh out of grad school, taking over Jesups relatively new upstart newspaper that had the gall and guts to take on whatever his readers had a right to know. Elliott ran the newspaper as if his pants were on fire. He and his camera were everywhere. His pop-you-inthe-nose-if-you-needed-it editorials were signed EEB. Dubbed The People Paper, the editions were printed on a sheet-fed offset press with clear and snappy photos. The only things snappier were his commentaries and the weekly wave of letters to the editor. He believed a good newspaper was a community engaging in conversation with itself. He had Wayne Countians yapping. My trip to the old feed store was to see Editor Brack, who also ran a print shop. As a student council member, my assignment was to find a printer for our high schools telephone directory. Not only did he introduce me to ink and paper; EEB gave me an advertising-sales short

My Opinion

course. We peddled enough yellow page ads to pay the bill and bank a sizeable profit. Fast-forward to 1972. I had flirted with the idea of law school, but it was too late. I was under the EEB Spell, and my pants were ablaze, too. Elliott and his partner, Dr. Lanier Harrell, invited me to be their partner in the Wayne County Press. Doc warned, This could be a long-term investment. He was right. In 1976, Doc and Elliott cashed out. Decades later, my pants are still on fire, and the flames spread to sons Alan and Eric. In 1982, my friend, Tom Wood, resigned as president of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Together, we started buying newspapers. Now, he mentors Alan and Eric, much the way EEB has tutored me. Well, not exactly. Tom doesnt mark up their papers with a purple pen as Elliott did. I could wallpaper my office with EEBs much-needed and colorful comments. In 1974, Elliott left Jesup to be a guest instructor at UGAs Grady College of Journalism. After that year, he was vice president and general manager of the Gwinnett Daily News. His next challenge was as associate publisher of the Gwinnett Extra of The Atlanta JournalConstitution. He also found time to

The first time that I met Elliott Brack was in 1962 at the Wayne County Press. He made an impression that inspired me to be a newspaperman, too. Fifty years later, our sons, Alan and Eric, are in the business with our company, Community Newspapers, Inc. On Feb. 1, Elliott was honored for serving 33 years as chairman of the board of UGAs student newspaper, The Red & Black. Before the celebratory dinner, Alan, left, and Eric, right, got a chance to visit with my one-time boss and partner, Elliott Brack, second from right, who signed his editorials EEB.

write an 850-page history of Gwinnett County. Today, he publishes an electronic newsletter. Along with his son, Andy, and daughter, Betsy, he e-mails to subscribers Georgia Clips, articles from the states newspapers. EEB wont really retire until he stops breathing. At a Feb. 1 dinner to honor Elliott, a friend quipped, This is like going to Elliotts funeral, but he is alive and gets to hear all the good things said about him. A crowd celebrated Elliotts 33 years as board chairman of The Red & Black, UGAs student newspaper. Since the newspaper claimed its independence in 1980, hes been a guiding force. Starting with $90,000 and operating in a rented firetrap, The Red & Black eventually moved to its modern Baxter Street building. Today, the studentrun business is worth an estimated $5 million. Elliott has relinquished the gavel, but not before 3,000 student journalists received the EEB influencepurple pen and all. When you consider the impact Elliott Brack has had on so many, you dont have to be a math whiz to see that hes been a life-changing common denominator for thousands. I knowfirsthandabout four who are grateful.

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