I want to take this opportunity to thank all the great people of Woodbury and Cannon County for making the past 14 years a joy and privilege to serve you as Owner-Editor-Publisher of our county’s newspaper, the Cannon Courier. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed my association with you, the subscriber, the advertiser, business owner and the citizen who had a dog, boat or car to sell, a yard sale to advertise or a house to rent. Each ad was just as important, no matter the size. You were a customer and I thank you for your support.
I have spent most of my life involved with the Cannon Courier, starting at the age of 10 selling the Cannon Courier on a paper route in Woodbury. Two of my uncles had served in the same position as Owner-Editor-Publisher, the late Hayden Smith and the late R. Mel Bryson. Another uncle, the late Robert Pigg, was the Linotype operator at the Courier. He and his wife Joyce and daughter Jane later moved to Jamestown and were co-owners of the Fentress County Leader-Times for many years. I think it was just meant to be that I follow in their footsteps. My mother and father, the late Ike and Myra Smith Bryson, encouraged and supported me in the early years of my life to choose the newspaper profession and one that I have never regretted.
From 1980 until 1995, I had the pleasure and privilege to serve as Managing Editor with two of my closest friends, David and Tommy Bragg. The Braggs’ also followed in the footsteps of their granddad, the late Minor Bragg, who was also owner of the Cannon Courier in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Mr. Minor sold the Courier to my late uncle, Hayden Smith. In 1995, I purchased the Courier from the Bragg’s when David obtained his law degree and in 2008 was elected Circuit Judge for the 16th Judicial District. Tommy later sold Courier Printing in Smyrna became interested in politics and followed his dad’s footsteps, the late State Rep. John Bragg. Tommy currently is serving his second term as Mayor of Murfreesboro and has done an outstanding job leading one of the fastest growing cities in the state.
Through the years that I have been at the Cannon Courier, I have come in contact with hundreds of people and enjoyed meeting and talking with each of them. I have worked with Sheriffs, U.S. Marshals, DEA agents, ATF agents, ABC Agents, FBI, Judges, Troopers for the Tennessee Highway Patrol and one of my dear friends Mark Gwyn, began as a rookie T.B.I. Field Agent in Cannon County and now serves as the Director of the T.B.I. Tennessee Governors, State Senators, State Representatives, U.S. Representative Bart Gordon, U.S. Senators and numerous other dignataries have had one time or another been through the doors of the Cannon Courier, including a former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. Numerous local city and county officials, Mayors, County Executives, County Commissioners and City Aldermen.....the list of people is way too long to name.
Since 1978 I have been working with the Police Department and Sheriffs of Cannon County. They would call when an accident, meth lab, moonshine still, marijuana patch or crime scene needed photographed. The friendship and respect for each them will always be remembered. Cannon County has been blessed with some outstanding law enforcement personnel. I want to thank Trooper Sgt. Billy Prater for his assistance in reporting accidents in Cannon County. He is a dedicated officer and has done a lot for Cannon County. I have know him since he first joined the Highway Patrol and was assigned to Cannon and Warren counties. Many have gone on to pursue their careers to other Police and Sheriff’s Departments and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. When either the Police Department or Sheriff’s Department called - I always went, no matter the time or circumstance. In return I gained their confidence, in some instances holding a story when necessary so as not to hinder a pending case or arrest. I want to thank current Cannon County Sheriff Billy Nichols, his deputies and Investigators Charlie Wilder and Vance Walker; Woodbury Police Chief Tony Burnett, Assistant Chief Darrell Young and other city officers for the help, cooperation and friendship. Through the years we all made a pretty good team!
A special thanks to State Representative Stratton Bone and his assistant, Robbie Farmer. They have been great to work with during the past eight years that our county has been a part of the 46th Legislative District. Rep. Bone has been a great asset to Cannon County and we have received much state assistance through his efforts in the House. The Cannon Courier was honored on it’s 125th birthday by the Tennessee General Assembly which concluded their session in June. Rep. Bone presented the Courier with a framed copy of Tennessee House of Representatives Resolution No. 142 signed by Rep. Bone and Speaker of the House Kent Williams. The document is proudly displayed on the wall of the office.
To U.S. Representative Bart Gordon, who was elected to his first term in Congress in 1984, I say thank you for being a good friend to me and a good friend to Cannon County. You have worked tirelessly for our community and our county has received numerous grants and federal funding through your efforts. You have represented the 6th Congressional District of Tennessee with honesty and integrity. Rep. Gordon has held numerous Open Meetings in our area and often called to check on the needs and current events of our community.
To the members of the Judicial system in Cannon County and the 16th Judicial District, I want to thank you: General Sessions Judge Susan Melton, District Attorney Bill Whitesell and his Assistant DA David Puckett; Public Defender Gerald Melton, Chancellor Robert Corlew III, Honorable Judges Don Ash, David Bragg, Mark Rogers and Royce Taylor; retired Circuit Judges J.S. (Steve) Daniel and James Clayton; and the late Chancellor Whitney Stegall and General Sessions Judge John Melton III. All these people were instrumental in helping me and the Courier staff report court news to this community. It has been a pleasure and honor to know and work with each of you. To Circuit Court Clerk Robert H. (Hoppy) Davenport and his dedicated staff, I also say thank you for help. If I needed a court document or research a case they were always ready to help. Other public officials must be included in this list: County Executive Mike Gannon, Trustee James Maxwell, Register of Deeds Debbie Morris, County Clerk Bobby Smith, Property Assessor Donald Preston, Clerk & Master Harold Patrick, Highway Commissioners Jerry Pelham, Wayne Alexander and James Hancock, former Director of Schools Edd Diden; Woodbury and Aubuurntown Mayors Harold Patrick and Roger Turney and the Board of Aldermen for both towns; Woodbury City Recorder Charlene Odom and State Senator Mae Beavers.
The Cannon Courier has come a long way during the time I have been a part of the staff. From the “old days” of actually printing the paper on site, two pages at a time on an old hand-fed letterpress. This advanced to “cut and paste” where ads and news material was typed and laid out on page size sheets. Today, the Courier is all done by computer. Ads and news material are sized and placed on page templates. Each page is sent by E-mail to the Southern Standard in McMinnville where it is digitally reproduced into the finished product. I want to thank Southern Standard Publisher Patricia Zechman and her dedicated staff of employees. When the Daily News Journal closed its production department in 2007 we needed a printer and they filled the void. Yes, newspaper production has come a long way and the changes I have seen are for the best.
A lot of true and loyal friends have helped and supported Patricia and I through our years of ownership of the Courier. Some of these people I must thank include Bill Smith, Steve Smith and the former Bank of Commerce who helped me finance the purchase of the Courier in 1995, without their support and confidence in me, the purchase would not have been possible; to Buddy Davenport and Dr. Leon Reuhland, your help and support in 1996 will never be forgotten; to Bob and Teresa Stoetzel for their help in making the Cannon Courier the best weekly newspaper in the area. Their hard work and dedication helped make the Courier a success and I know that will continue; to their sons, Dustin and Tracey, who helped me in the Circulation Department each week. I have seen you grow into fine young men. Dustin now works for the Department of Forestry and Tracey, an officer with the Woodbury Police Department.
To my wife, Patricia, who has put up with the long hours and little time off during our time as owners, I can only say thank you for your love and support. You have helped me make the Cannon Courier a successful business and one that we can be proud of. To my brother Hayden, nephews Andy Bryson and Robert Sain, sister Susan and husband, Charles Sain; my aunts Mrs. Joyce Pigg and Mrs. Lillian Smith Wallace; my cousins, Jane Powers, Nancy Griner and Sally Smith. There is nothing stronger than family ties and the strong bond that holds them together. This family, beginning with the late Hayden Smith at age 15 in the 1930s, began serving the community for many years through the Cannon Courier and that bond helped me through my years with the paper.
I tried to conduct the operation of the Courier in a manner that was professional and one that my uncle, Hayden Smith would have been proud to say, “you did a good job”. I have been told many times that he was well respected in the community and many looked to him for advice and guidance.
William R. (Ron) Fryar, the new owner of the Cannon Courier, will continue the tradition the paper has done each week for the past 125 years.... serving the community. He is an outstanding newspaper man and has been the Publisher of our two neighbor papers to the east and west, the Southern Standard in McMinnville and the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro. Fryar is currently serving as President of the Tennessee Press Association Board of Trustees and he was a Director of the Tennessee Press Service in 2008-2009. In the June 2009 meeting of the Press Association, he was re-elected to serve another three-year term. Most recently he served as Senior Vice President of American Hometown Publishing in Franklin. He will be a great asset to the community and his knowledge of the newspaper industry is unmatched. This community is fortunate to have a man of this background assume the role that I leave behind.
Change is always good in every business and some “new blood” will make this county’s newspaper even better. Ron has some new and exciting ideas for the Courier and one that will increase readership and increase sales. I am confident that I have placed the Cannon Courier in good hands!
Thanks everyone.... it has truly been a memorable journey!
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